HSV Submissions – July 2008

Violence against Women and Children

Submitted 15 July 2008 to the National Council on Reducing Violence against Women and Children (Department of Family and Community Services, Australia)

In our submission to the National Council on Reducing Violence against Women and Children, HSV made the following main comments in answer to specific questions:

  1. Humanists regard domestic violence as a particularly abhorrent crime and a grave social problem. A major cultural change in the community and in our justice system is needed to ensure family safety. Changes in attitudes and behaviours are best achieved through law reform and education.
  2. The causes are a widespread belief that wife-bashing is not a crime; past teachings about a woman’s subservience, mostly of religious origins; past treatment of ‘domestics’ as a private matter; the frequent failure of the justice system to protect victims. (We enclosed relevant reports.)
  3. Women’s shelters and refuges should be seen as an emergency measure and not as an acceptable solution to the problem. We strongly support the recommendations that the perpetrator, and not the victim, should be removed from the home.
  4. The police, and not the victim, should be required to lay charges. The breach of intervention orders should be regarded as a serious offence.
  5. We support the following recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission on the subject: to establish specialist Family Violence Courts with personnel trained in all aspects of the crime; to train specialist police units to conduct all criminal prosecutions, assist and advise victims and witnesses; to fund community legal centres to provide specialised advice and representation in courts; courts to avoid delays of cases, during which further offences can be committed; that causing a child to see or hear or otherwise be exposed to violent behaviour should be an offence incurring an intervention order for such a child.
  6. A new definition of family violence needs to be broad enough to include abuses specific to certain groups in the community: indigenous, migrants and people with disabilities. In addition, we submitted two views:
    • Corporal punishment of children teaches them that conflict can be resolved by force and that violence is acceptable. It engenders violence, as found by the National Committee on Violence in 1990. We support their recommendation that after a period of public education, corporal punishment be outlawed, as happened in Europe fourteen year ago.
    • We submit, as a preventative measure, that the problem of domestic violence be included in school curricula as part of the subject of human relationships. It should discuss the failure of relationships, violence as criminal behaviour, the need for economic and self-dependence and social alternatives for girls, and the detrimental tradition of socialising men to be dominant and aggressive and women to be passive. Violence is often the result of parental modelling and schools should act to modify it.

Published: Victorian Humanist, August 2008: 4

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