Minister misleads Federal Parliament about Family Violence

May 31, 2011

A leading men’s health organisation today claimed that the Federal Minister for the Status of Women, the Hon. Kate Ellis MP misled Parliament during debate of the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 last Thursday by making false and misleading claims about family violence. Men’s Health Australia are concerned about the Minister’s claim, "while it is true that men are more likely to be victims of violence, this violence occurs predominantly at the hands of a stranger and in public places, such as the street or the pub, not at the hands of a family member, not at the hands of a partner, not at the hands of those they trust the most and not in their own home." Spokesperson Greg Andresen said, "Australian men are indeed more likely than women to experience violence at the hands of strangers and in public places, such as the street or the pub. However, this does not mean that men are less likely than women to experience violence at the hands of persons known to them, or in the home."

Recent figures just released from the ABS Personal Safety Survey 2005
show there was no statistically significant gender difference between
the victimisation rates for males and females for physical assault:

(a) by known perpetrators in the last 12 months,
(b) by family members in the last 12 months, or
(c) in the home in the most recent incident in the last 12 months.

The Minister also used statistics on all violence against
women – not just family violence – to infer that those who suffer from
family violence are predominantly women and children. She went on to
cite "research conducted in Victoria just a couple of years ago revealed
that intimate-partner violence is the leading contributor to death,
disability and illness amongst women in that state who are aged between
15 and 44."

Mr Andresen confirms this study only looked at women, so the
comparative figures for men simply aren’t available. "This statistic is
also misleading because the study
found that the vast majority (71.8%) of the contribution to the burden
of disease in young Victorian women from intimate partner violence was
from illness (depression, anxiety and eating disorders), not from death
or disability. In the year of the survey the number one cause of death
for Australian women aged 15 to 44 was cancer with 757 deaths, while there were 54 domestic violence homicides of women."

In her speech the Minister claimed that separated mothers do not
make false accusations of family violence and child abuse to gain a
tactical advantage in family law proceedings. The only evidence provided
was "a report in 2007 by the Australian Institute of Family Studies
finding that the family violence allegation rates in custody proceedings
in the Family Court of Australia or in the Federal Magistrates Court
are similar to the reported rates of spousal violence profiles in the
general divorcing population."

Mr Andresen said, "Persons going through custody proceedings in the
FCA or the FMC are ‘the sharp end of the stick’, and are not at all
representative of the general divorcing population. Therefore any
correlation or not between family violence allegations/rates is

Men’s Health Australia says that in recent research
by VicHealth, half of all respondents (49%) believed that ‘women going
through custody battles often make up or exaggerate claims of domestic
violence in order to improve their case’, and only 28% disagreed – most
likely because they had personal knowledge of a friend or family member
who had experienced this, or had experienced it themselves.

Men’s Health Australia agrees with the Minister on one point: that
child abuse and family violence are real, especially during divorce
proceedings. However, they argue there is no reason to throw away due
process – as the government’s proposed amendments do – in an attempt to
protect people from child abuse and family violence. They say it is
possible to protect people both from violence and from false allegations of violence – both cause immeasurable harm to the lives of victims.

Media contact:        Greg
Andresen        |        |    0403
813 925


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