John James, while I appreciate your lengthy response to my post, I completely disagree with you. I read Lana Hirschowitz's piece, and while I normally agree with Lana and certainly applaud her advocacy born of personal experience for greater mental health services, in this instance I very strongly disagree with what she had to say. I did not make her piece the focus of my post because it was just one of many articles/posts taking a similar approach.
While well-intentioned, I believe that the calls from not only Lana but others in the media to call for a focus on mental health rather than family violence immediately following two brutal murders of children at the hands of their father, is dangerous for the actual victims of domestic violence.
I also come to the issue of domestic violence with both professional expertise and a personal connection. I won't bore you with the details but I assure I am well-informed on this issue.
My first response following a brutal murder of a child by his father, a father who it is well documented had been terrorising the mother of the child for 11 years and had many warrants out for his arrest, is not to express empathy, compassion or understanding for the perpetrator. It is rather to experience anger, despair and grief for the victims.
I understand the instinct to blame mental illness because who wants to believe that a parent could brutally, and with premeditation murder his own child. It is too monstrous. But without speculating on the specific details of the most recent case, it does follow a common pattern. It is, shockingly, not surprising. I would go so far to say it is a classic case, and the mindset of the perpetrator is well understood by those who work in the field of domestic violence. I do not need to empathise with the perpetrator to understand his mindset. Those who work in domestic violence, or have been victims of domestic violence, have a pretty good understanding of it already.
Domestic Violence Victoria, the peak body for domestic violence services for women and children, reports the following:
"At an individual level, the most consistent predictor of the use of violence among men is their agreement with sexist, patriarchal, and/or sexually hostile attitudes."
And for those who wish to shift the focus from family violence to mental health, consider this finding:
"Intimate partner violence is responsible for more ill-health and premature death in Victorian women under the age of 45 than of any other well-known risk factors, including high blood pressure, obesity and smoking. 59% of the health impact experience by women is anxiety and depression."
So in actual fact, it is family violence that is a leading cause of mental health issues in women (and death).
Consider how a woman currently stuck in an abusive relationship, or a woman who has 'left' but continues to be terrorised by her abuser, might receive these calls for empathy and compassion and understanding for the perpetrator following these two horrific events.
Consider that it reinforces perpetrators own self-perception, that he is in fact the victim in all this.
Consider that the many posts and articles written to this effect will make the real victims of domestic violence feel even more alone, more unsupported than they already do.
Consider that batterers, men who terrorise their families, are reading these calls for compassion and understanding and taking comfort.
Consider that while many have chosen to focus on mental health as the 'real' issue in this case, this approach is not supported by mental health experts who worry that these calls are in fact stigmatising people with mental health issues by making this connection between domestic violence and mental illness.
As @deltrimental noted: "My timeline is interesting atm: the mainstream calling for compassion for mental illness and MH advocates condemning that approach."
Consider that we do not ask for 'understanding' or empathy when talking about people who have committed other violent crimes. It is absolutely appropriate and required that criminologists, psychologists, public health experts and lawyers investigate the causes of crimes (especially violent crime) and implement both prevention and rehabilitative measures. But as a community it is just as important that we unequivocally condemn domestic violence and do not signal in any way that the perpetrators are people deserving of our sympathy. (And in saying this I am not advocating public floggings or removing judicial discretion in sentencing or other law and order measures commonly touted by the right.)
Consider that the Victorian Police Commissioner, Ken Lay, had this to say follow the brutal murder: "I find a coward present more often in a family violence issue than I do a person with a mental illness"
He also said: "It is my hope that Luke's death will be a very, very strong reminder to our community on the insidious and pervading nature of family violence."
Consider what Philip Cleary (@PhilCleary_Ind), campaigner against family violence, said on twitter 2 days ago: "The killer is not a victim. This was an act of revenge. This is not a story about depression but about a man's capacity for violence."
And: "Where were the politicians discussing family violence today? Why not a Royal Commission into family violence rather than one into unions?"
And: "Luke Batty is dead because our society and its institutions failed to deal with male violence. Seeking excuses in mental illness is foolish."
Victims/survivors of domestic violence have thanked me for writing this post. That is good enough for me.