Friday, November 07, 2008

Kate Gilmore hopes we have forgotten 94

Kate Gilmore must be hoping that we all have short memories. She wrote a column for The Age on Monday which begins:

One in three Australian women faces violence at some stage in her life. As a nation, we must find the leadership and the conviction to tackle effectively this blight ... That one in three women is subjected to violence is a scandal.

One in three women? Back in the mid-1990s, third wave feminism reached a peak in Australia. Kate Gilmore was in the midst of it, being the spokeswoman for the Government's campaign against domestic violence.

The feminism of the era was so pervasive that eventually there was a backlash against it from a section of the left. Gilmore was criticised by a film maker named Don Parham and by a fellow feminist, Moira Rayner. Rayner said that the "1 in 3" claim about domestic violence was "guesswork and should be dropped" (The Age, 01/06/1994). The Australian Bureau of Statistics released a survey showing that only 2.6% of women reported that a partner had been violent (including pushing or shoving) - a long way from 33%.

In the middle of the backlash against feminist excesses, Kate Gilmore fessed up. She wrote that it was important to make the 1 in 3 claim, not because it was accurate, but because it helped to drum up support for feminist causes. She wrote:

Fact is an elusive notion ... feminists have no more distorted the truth than any other advocates of disadvantaged groups fighting for public support.

What's going on here is trying to get something up on the public agenda that hasn't had any public attention. For all the excesses of which the field might be deemed to be guilty, it is only through these advocates that law reform ... has come. (Age 24/09/1994)

Gilmore admitted in The Age newspaper back in 1994 that the 1 in 3 figure was made up to further a cause; now, 14 years later, she is back making exactly the same claim in the same paper!

Gilmore is a follower of feminist patriarchy theory. This is the theory that society was organised by men to oppress women - which means that domestic violence is not an aberration from social norms, but is a traditional part of masculine culture and family life which is intended to maintain male power over women.

That's why back in 1994, when Gilmore was in charge of a national strategy on violence against women, she used her prominent position to make this claim:

You can see the tyrants, the invaders, the imperialists, in the fathers, the husbands, the stepfathers, the boyfriends, the grandfathers, and it's that study of tyranny in the home ... that will take us to the point where we can secure change.

The official strategy on domestic violence, loudly supported by then Prime Minister Paul Keating, asserted that all men were equally to blame. Gilmore herself denied that "men that are violent are different from every other man in the country". All men were tyrannical wife bashers.

Gilmore is now less strident in her message, but the underlying theory remains the same. For instance, she runs an argument in her column that male culture is accepting of violence against women:

... an effective national plan will create long-term change through sustained education and programs to ... challenge and change those otherwise deeply entrenched attitudes that make violence against women somehow acceptable, or at least excusable ..

... In the long run, the best protection for the women of Australia will come from a fundamental shift in social attitudes. Of course, achieving such change is tough but it is possible .... [to achieve] a fundamental change in social norms and attitudes.

To change attidues to violence against women, a co-ordinated and sustained approach must be adopted ...

It's ironic that Gilmore's article is based on a speech she gave to VicHealth. This organisation released a report in 2006 on men's attitudes to domestic violence in Victoria. The results? 97% of Victorian men not only believe domestic violence is wrong, they consider it a crime.

Where then is the deeply entrenched attitude which accepts domestic violence? What fundamental shift in social norms is required?

Gilmore's theory is wrong. Domestic violence does not exist to uphold the power of all men against all women. It does not, and never has, represented a social norm. When I was growing up in Melbourne in the 1970s, one of the strongest aspects of the male code was that you never hit women.

It was pointed out to Kate Gilmore by Moira Rayner back in 1994 that domestic violence is associated with "stress" factors, such as poverty, alcohol and unemployment. Just last month Anglicare Victoria research found that:

More than four out of five family violence cases also involve mental illness, financial hardship, alcohol abuse or housing difficulties.

Kate Gilmore writes of Australia becoming "fairer, more deeply humane and simply more just". It's difficult to see the justice, though, in unfairly attacking men and men's attitudes to women. It is not the norm for men to support violence against women, nor is such violence, as Gilmore's 1994 strategy claimed, "a product of the social construction of masculinity".

It is in families and individuals under stress that you are most likely to find domestic violence - with men not always being the perpetrators.


  1. I think it's a case that now Howard has gone, and a politically correct "progressive" government has formed, these people are once again coming out of the woodwork imagining that Rudd's victory means the country is now ready to fall for their line once again. We see it in so many other things: from the Black armband history, to "Asia, Asia, Asia" (as if saying it often enough will cause riches to appear spontaneously) to republicanism.

    Howard had many faults, and was not conservative in many ways, but at least this sort of thing was in partial retreat during his time. Now back to the Keatingite era again. Can't say I'm looking forward to it.

  2. Something struck me the other day about how disdainful of democracy the Left is:

    There is a new book published about Keating called The Interrupted Revolution.


    Those pesky voters, how dare they!

    Also, it goes to show how the Left will keep pushing and the mainstream conservatives only delay the inevitable.

  3. The Left must continue to demonize men. Domestic violence issues are just another method of doing so.

    The Left is now better described as the Feminine Left.

  4. The Gilmore Girl:

    "You can see the tyrants, the invaders, the imperialists, in the fathers, the husbands, the stepfathers, the boyfriends, the grandfathers, and it's that study of tyranny in the home ..."

    And other, more reasonable, women see the lover, the protector, the provider, the inventor, the scientist, the comedian, the entrepreneur ...

    Gilmore represents bigotry, plain and simple.


  5. Ok, let's first set a few things straight about this blog entry. Anybody who uses a quotation of a survey done in 1994 is now seriously out of date. There's a plethora of research studies available since 1994 that are reaching a much more accurate picture of how violent our society really is. Just because Rayner considered the 1 in 3 a guess and should be dropped doesn't mean that the 'guess' cannot become reality or that it wasn't based on good guesswork. The reality today, in 2008 is that the figure of 1 in 3 women who have experienced sexual coercion, abuse, violence (domestic or otherwise) in their lifetime is actually correct. Approximately 40% of marriages that end have experienced violence at least once in the prior 12 months. We know that 30% of marriages break up and we can extrapolate this out to read that 1 in 6 marriages have had some form of violence in them.

    The 2006 report from VicHealth surveyed 2800 'people' not men specifically. So your statement that "97% of men believed domestic violence to be wrong and a crime" is not a factual statement to make. The result of that report is: 97% of respondents believed that domestic violence is a criminal offence. It doesn't say anything at all about 97% of men thinking it is wrong. It's a legality question to gauge people's understanding of the law, nothing more or less than that.

    What is more interesting about the results of that survey is that men are more likely to hold violence-supportive attitudes than women, and that men from ethnic background (Greek, Italian etc.) held a much higher proportion of violence-supportive attitudes.

    From that report came the following which is deemed "of concern":

    25% of respondents believe domestic violence can be excused if it results in genuine regret or happened because of temporary anger.

    23% did not consider yelling abuse at a partner as serious.

    17% did not think that repeatedly criticising a partner to make them feel bad and useless is serious.

    Almost 40% believe that rape results from men not being able to control their need for sex (hence removing responsibility from men by regarding they've lost control).

    18% believed that domestic violence is a private matter and should be dealt within the home.

    14% believed that sexually harassed women should sort it out themselves.

    46% agreed that women going through custody battles often make up claims of domestic violence to improve their case, despite no studies proving this.

    Nearly 25% disagreed that 'women rarely make false claims of rape', even though there is evidence to the contrary.

    20% of respondents believe that domestic violence is perpetrated by women as much as men, despite reports stating between 71% – 87% victims are female and 75% – 98% offenders are male.

    Almost 30% are unaware of the considerable harm that controlling behaviours such as limiting finances and restricting contact with family can have on women, as these were not considered violent or serious.

    27% did not believe that harassment by phone, email and text and stalking are violent behaviours.

    As for the comment about it the tyranny of fathers, grandfathers, uncles, boyfriends...consider these numbers, taken from the Australian Institute of Criminology for 2006/06.

    63% happen in a dwelling. 69% of females are killed by an intimate partner or family member, and only 11% of females are killed by strangers.

    Sexual Assaults
    66% happen in a dwelling. 84% of female victims had some form of relationship with the offender. The biggest category for sexual assaults is girls aged 10 - 14.

    42% happen in a dwelling. 74% of female victims are attacked by known family members or other known person.
    The largest group for assaults is men in the 15 - 24 age group of which 50% of offenders are strangers (nearly all other men).

    So, if Kate Gilmore is predicting or hoping that Australia becomes more fairer and more just, I hope she's right, coz she got it right back in 1994.

  6. Lynn,

    a) The 1996 Women's Safety Survey was a major undertaking by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It found that in a 12 month period 2.6% of women experienced some form of violence, although half of these cases involved less severe violence such as threats or grabbing.

    Therefore in a 12 month period about 1.3% of women experienced more severe violence such as hitting. About half of these cases involved alcohol - so excluding alcohol you get .65% of women.

    If the Anglicare report is correct, and 80% of cases involve not only alcohol, but also mental health problems, homelessness and unemployment, then 0.26% of women are affected.

    In other words, in a given year it is possible that 0.26% of women will be subjected to hitting by men who don't fall into an obvious "stress" category of poverty and alcoholism - meaning that attitudes might be to blame.

    b) You argue that a 1996 survey is too old to mean much. Why? What would have changed dramatically since then?

    c) You claim that more recent studies give a more accurate picture of rates of domestic violence.

    In 2006, the Journal of Family Psychology published research findings carried out by academics from three American universities.

    The results? Men had committed acts of severe violence such as hitting in 3.63% of couples.

    Not only is this well under the claimed 33%, but the researchers found that 7.5% of the women had committed severe acts of violence on their husbands. So women were nearly twice as likely to be perpetrators as men.

    The academic researchers weren't surprised by the results:

    "As expected from previous research with this and other community samples (Archer, 2000), differences were observed in the rates of male and female partner violence, with female violence occurring more frequently."

    d) The 1996 Women's Safety Survey also reported more generally on violence against women.

    It found that women were much safer when in a relationship with a man than when single - by a large factor of 250%.

    Furthermore, it found that 25% of assaults against women were committed by other women.

    e) As for some of the VicHealth responses you list:

    i) Women do make up false rape claims. It is therefore not problematic if 25% of Victorians think this to be true.

    ii) It is not the fault of the general public if activists change the meaning of words.

    For most people violence signifies a physical act. Therefore, it's no surprise if many people don't consider email harassment or limiting finances to be acts of violence.

    iii) If people believe that women initiate domestic violence as frequently as men it is because there is a body of research suggesting this to be the case.

    Your claim that up to 98% of perpetrators are men is, to be frank, unbelievable.

    f) Finally, you use homicides committed against women in the home as evidence that men are tyrants and oppressors.

    i) These cases most usually involve unemployment and alcohol. In fact, in 62.4% of homicides against women, both the male and the female involved were unemployed; 33.7% of cases involved alcohol.

    Here is how it is put by an Australian Institute of Criminology study:

    "James and Carcach (1998) suggest that almost 85 per cent of victims, and a little over 90 per cent of offenders, belong to what can be described as an underclass in Australian society.

    Similarly, in a study of homicides that occurred in New South Wales between 1968 and 1981, it was found that marital violence resulting in death only very rarely occurred in the professional, semi-professional and managerial classes (Wallace 1986)."

    ii) The risk to women is comparatively small as only a tiny percentage of women fall victim to homicide in Australia.

    Women are more likely to die from accidental falls than from homicide. They are much more likely to die from self-inflicted violence than from violence by male partners.