I was chatting to an Amnesty International activist the other day. He informed me of the growing problem of domestic violence and the importance of Australians standing up and letting their government know that they take domestic violence very seriously. He said that Amnesty was involved in lobbying the government and also ensuring that kids in schools were made aware of the dangers and appropriate attitudes to domestic violence. I said I couldn’t agree more, and asked him if the risks involved in de facto relationships and pornography were part of the education package. He looked at me blankly and became a little agitated. As far as he was concerned there were no connections between domestic violence and de facto relationships or pornography.
Concern about domestic violence is escalating recently, with good reason. One third of all women in Australia have experienced domestic violence. This is a sad and sickening figure and it’s absolutely right to turn our attention to this issue. Many have pointed the finger at traditional attitudes to gender roles as a cause. But attitudes and opportunities for women have changed remarkably over the last few decades, and yet violence seems to be increasing rather than decreasing. With our rightly renewed interest in stamping out domestic violence, why are de facto relationships and pornography being ignored in the public debate?
Sacred Cow 1: De facto relationships
One of the big changes in our society that was meant to reduce domestic violence was the introduction of no-fault-divorce in 1975. Women trapped in abusive marriages were now able to escape. Over time, marriage became less popular and a new, liberating alternative to marriage began to emerge and was eventually recognised: the de facto relationship. But have de facto relationships been good for women? Not if you look at the domestic violence stats. According to different studies, women are three to four times more likely to suffer domestic violence in a de facto relationship than they are in a marriage. Yet there is little or no coverage of these statistics in the media. It seems counter-intuitive, but the numbers speak for themselves: women are safer in marriages than they are in de facto relationships. Ironically divorce has not made women any happier either.
Sacred Cow 2: Pornography
Another big change in our society came with the internet age: easy access to pornography. Before the internet you had to go down to the news agency and physically stand before another person in order to buy a pornographic magazine. Now you can secretly watch it on your smart phone without a soul ever knowing. But why does it matter what someone does in the privacy of their own home? It doesn’t affect anyone else, right? Wrong. Pornography is having devastating effects on our society. One of those effects is an increase in abuse to women by men. Studies show that exposure even to non-violent pornography increase people’s acceptance of violence towards women. And it’s not just attitudes, men (and also boys) act out on those new attitudes. Rape rates increase by six times with exposure to violent porn. Even soft-core porn correlates with increased rates of child sexual abuse and rape. Yet it doesn’t get a mention in the new campaigns about domestic violence! Why on earth not?
No doubt about it. Men are to blame for domestic violence against women. But if we’re going to get serious about reducing domestic violence then let’s speak the hard truth. Two sacred cows need to be exposed for what they are: havens of domestic violence.
- De facto relationships are too dangerous for our women. Ladies, insist on getting married for your own safety and protection. Men, don’t slide into a commitment-free sexual relationship, man up and marry the woman. Commit to her life-long well-being.
- Pornography is not a harmless indulgence. It trains your brain for sexual violence. Switch it off before it ruins your life and the lives of others.