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Why do we forgive men who perpetrate violence and destroy women who are the victims of it?

Does any of this sound familiar? A man is arrested charged, pleads guilty and convicted of killing his partner. His community says: he was such a lovely fella, he loved his family, he wouldn’t hurt a fly, he is a much respected and loved member of the community.

OK, I’ll stop there, as I literally feel nauseous writing that. Sure, he may have been a lovely fella until the point he bludgeoned his partner to death, but what then? How can it be that he’s generally viewed in this positive light after his crime too?

Actually, it gets worse.

For example, let’s take a certain famous Brazilian football player who was not only convicted of murdering his girlfriend but feeding her to his dogs to cover up the evidence. Nice fella, eh? Was he extricated from his community? Left to rot in prison? No, he was released after serving only part of his sentence and offered a two-year contract to play with a well-known Brazilian football team, probably worth a fortune. He is a celebrity and we seem to love to cut celebrities a heap of slack when it comes to violence. I mean we still go and watch Michael Fassbender, Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson films even though they have a string of violent offences towards women to their names.

Maybe we should ask Melissa George if she agrees that celebrities are cut some slack. I would guess her answer would be a resounding no. After she confirmed she was struck repeatedly during a fight with her ex-husband, in an interview in February, she has been on the receiving end of the fairly standard gender/perpetrator/victim divide. Trolled to the extent you usually see reserved for online women, such as Clem Ford or Van Badham, George was subjected to some awful vitriol on social media. The language was similar to the frequent responses to many crimes against women: she was probably asking for it, she probably cheated, she’s faking it to get sympathy from the judge, she’s lying to get more money out of her divorce, she hit first.

Does this sound familiar? Let’s remind everyone that she’s the victim here.

In a really weird twist of reality though, when violence is perpetrated towards a stranger, such as Stephanie Scott, the public response is very different.

As a society we often blame the woman in the domestic situation because we assume she has or had choices. We want to punish these women for disrupting conventions. So what does that say about our civilised society? The results of domestic violence tell a chilling story.

Women dead in April: 5

Women dead in 2017: 17

 

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