TRIGGER WARNING: FAMILY VIOLENCE
Hey people. It’s been with a heavy heart that I’ve been watching this Hannah Clarke story play out. For those who don’t live in Australia and haven’t been following the news, Hannah Clarke was a beautiful, vivacious Mum of three gorgeous kids. Her estranged husband, Rowan Baxter took their lives last week murdering all four of them in a horrendous crime that has truly shaken so many of us.
Its shaken feminists and commentators, and rightly so, as Rowan Baxter has been described as a “good bloke.” Well, I think you kinda give up that title when you kill your wife and kids. Predictably, the conversation has moved to why we have to stop domestic violence. We have to put policies in place. We have to put responsibility on men. I’m not against any of those things. I’m all for them. But if that’s it, then guess what: vulnerable people are still in danger.
I wanted to slam out this article to bring a little bit of balance to the conversation. We have to do more than virtue signalling that men have to do better and we have to stop domestic and family violence.
Reality check number one: family violence goes back a long way. It is perhaps one of humanity’s darkest characteristics, with the Bible’s first family losing a member to family violence. Brothers Cain and Abel fought. Abel died at Cain’s hands.
Family violence turned to murder. Now regardless of whether you are a Biblical literalist or not, it’s a story that should be very telling. As long as there are human relationships, there is the opportunity for them to become toxic.
Reality check number two: women can be the perps too and men can be victims. As society increasingly moves into a reality where same sex relationships are more accepted, we can’t always be looking for a man to be the perp and a woman to be the victim. It doesn’t translate to the modern reality. Even in straight relationships, men can be the victims of domestic and family violence.
Our lives were forever marked when a friend called us one day and told us her brother was missing. She begged us to pray. Pray we did, but it was tragically too late for him. He had been killed by his ex-wife and her partner. His children and family were forever scarred by his loss. Women are not always the victims. We need to remember that.
I would love for domestic violence to never re-occur. I would love for there to never be another Hannah Clarke. Sadly, I think we all know there will be.
But there is something we can all do beyond supporting policy change and standing for the violence to end.
- We can get to know the Duluth wheel (video below) which shows the dynamics of physical and sexual violence. Watch the video I posted below. It isn’t long. But it shows how physical and sexual violence starts and develops, and shows what the mechanisms are – the power and control dynamics that make a relationship toxic and unsafe. If you have concerns about a friend, listen to your gut. Check against the Duluth Wheel. Talk to someone who can suggest what to do next. Extracting someone from a violent relationship can be done, but it needs to be done carefully. Go on. Watch the video at the end of this article. You never know if a friend of yours might be counting on it.
- Figure out your local family violence services. These services are qualified, experienced, informed and able to help in a safer and more constructive way than well-meaning friends staging an intervention that may inflame a volatile situation. Go to The White Ribbon Foundation if you are in Australia. You can find resources there. In my region (Gippsland), Uniting, Quantum Support Services, Latrobe Community Health and the Police are places you can go for help. Yes, even if that help is “I’m concerned about a friend and need to know what my options are.” I can’t stress enough – get good information first. If a friend or loved one is in a volatile situation, you don’t want your actions to inflame the situation. Call the experts. Follow their advice.
- Don’t dismiss your gut feeling. If you think there’s something wrong, if you think a friend is becoming more isolated and controlled by a partner, then don’t dismiss that feeling. Call the experts. Watch the video. Understand the dynamics.
- Yes, we can all hope for policy change, better services, and no more domestic and family violence perpetrators. But we can do all of this too. We can be more informed, more alert, and more connected to the ones we love. Awareness that a societal problem exists is one thing. Being skilled with a little bit of information, information that can lead you to actually help someone vulnerable, is a whole new ballgame.
- But seriously, go watch the video now.