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The Forum > Article Comments > 'Reasonable fear of violence' unreasonable > Comments

'Reasonable fear of violence' unreasonable : Comments

By Patricia Merkin, published 30/3/2006

The family law amendment changing from “fear” of violence to a “reasonable fear” of violence, is more than just sematics.

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It is grim testimony to the debased state of family law in Australia that one of the sisterhood can froth at the mouth at the inclusion of the word "reasonable".

I have not been subject to any family law measures but I have observed the way in which a family member was persecuted by the state through the total absence of controls to ensure that the spirit and intent of the legislation was not abused.

Here we have a field of law that is the most prone to vexatious litigation, most prone to false and misleading testimony, most prone to defamatory material, most prone to misrepresentation with the intent to gain monetary advantage, and most prone to false and unsubstantiated accusation. All of it would be highly illegal if it took place in just about any other social or legal context.

Yet, while judges routinely expose such false claims in court, no-one, ever, seems to be prosecuted for what is clearly contempt of court. There is some sort of perverted logic that such a prosecution would only punish the children. But no-one ever asks if we are really doing the kids a favour by teaching them that, under family law, cheats do, indeed, prosper.

Ms Merkin, you and your purile and sophist arguments against the insertion of "reasonableness" into family law are a disgrace. You offend every notion of natural justice and have exposed yourself as nothing more than a zealot.

And your exploitation of examples of murder/suicide is even more reprehensible given that a great many of these are triggered by the very sense of outrage and despair that this disgraceful legal cesspit has produced. You have the gall to use the very evidence of the system's failure as an argument for maintaining that system.
Posted by Perseus, Thursday, 30 March 2006 10:31:22 AM
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I completely agree that in Family Law some of the most vexatious lies are committed.

I was abused by my husband for years. As most of the abuse was psychological - when he hit me he made sure not to leave much evidence. I was too intimidated to press charges - I was just relieved to get away from him. As a result I lost my home and most of my possessions and had to start again - this has taken years. He got off free of any charge for his abhorrant behaviour.

I'm not a lawyer, and, as such, don't really understand just what the inclusion of the word 'reasonable' to fear would mean. From my own experience I certainly had good reason to fear my husband - still do to this day.

What the author had to say about the Victorian legislation made very good sense to me. I would have had some chance at proving psychological abuse, but back in the 70's I didn't have a hope. As the author states the following makes very good sense.

"Many people still consider family violence to be confined to physical assault, such as hitting, punching and pushing. A new Act should make it clear that family violence includes:

* assault and physical injury;
* sexual assault and other sexually coercive behaviour;
* damage to a person’s property;
* emotional, psychological and verbal abuse;
* economic abuse."

For this reason, Perseus, please do not be so quick to dismiss this article as a piece of sophistry. There are men and women and children who are suffering from their spouses everyday. This is why we need to look very carefully at any new piece of legislation. Perhaps the author should have included more about domestic violence against both men and women. Even though men commit most of the abuse there are many men who also are abused.

Perhaps the campaign slogan should read:

“Domestic Violence, AUSTRALIA SAYS NO"

Posted by Scout, Thursday, 30 March 2006 11:03:58 AM
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What an appalling load of rubbish.

Even the most basic look at stats on substantiated child abuse and neglect show this to be a lie. contains Australian statistics for the Family type for substantiated abuse and neglect of children.

Table 2.12: Substantiations, by type of family in which the child was residing,(a) 2003–04

Family type NSW(a) Vic Qld WA SA Tas ACT NT
Per cent
Two parent—intact n.a. 31 27 29 28 44 34 38
Two parent—step or blended n.a. 7 23 20 22 11 14 9
Single parent—female n.a. 44 37 36 43 27 44 35
Single parent—male n.a. 6 5 4 4 6 5 7
Other relatives/kin n.a. 6 2 7 3 3 1 9
Foster n.a. 1 — 2 — 4 1 1
Other n.a. 4 7 1 1 5 2 1
Total n.a. 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

"... in 2003, 17% of all Australian children lived in female
one-parent families, 2.5% lived in male-headed one-parent families, 8% lived in two-parent step or blended families and 72% lived in two-parent intact families (ABS 2004a)."

While the stats don't tell who is harming the children the living circumstances are a fairly good indicator. Likewise the NSW Child Death Review Team reports give some telling details on who kills children and it is not "overwhelmingly" men. and the area around Page 49.

Suspects Non-accidental Mental Family Teenagers Total
injury illness breakdown
Biological mother 3 4 0 0 7
Biological father 6 0 5 0 11
Mother and father 3 0 0 0 3
Mother and male 2 0 0 0 2
de facto
Male de facto only 2 2 0 0 4
Foster mother 1 0 0 0 1

Hardly overwhelming evidence that fathers are a far greater risk than mothers to children. Take the enormous stresses caused to fathers by the massive gender bias in the application of family law and child support out of the picture and I suspect that some of those Family Breakdown deaths would go away as well.

Posted by R0bert, Thursday, 30 March 2006 11:19:12 AM
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Scout, my intro line was directed at the article not at your post. After submitting my post I saw yours and realised that could read poorly. Completely agree with your rebadging of the campaign - the response we got back from the Government when they first launched the campaign was that it was funded by a department set up to help women so there was no need to consider violence against men. No corresponding department for men.

You've seen my comments previously regarding stats on physical violence between adults - I've not rehashed them yet, I'll see how the discussion goes. The child abuse stats are more telling and less disputable in the current context.

It is interesting that some authors want to include emotional violence and yet continue to insist that an "overwhelming" proportion of violence is committed by men against women. I've not seen any stats on that particular issue but would be very surprised if that claim could be backed up by any independant research unless it used the old perceived power structure dodge - men are more powerful in a relationship therefore women can't commit emotional violence against them.

In the context of family breakup the power structures are massively in the other direction so I wonder if the people who use power balances to discount one side of the argument would like to excuse men from their acts of physical and emotional violence - I suspect not.

Posted by R0bert, Thursday, 30 March 2006 11:46:49 AM
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I was very relieved to read your second post. (Apart from trying to make sense of those stats.)

I think it is a shame that so many articles on DV are not inclusive. However, could you please consider my thoughts on the following.

Generally speaking, men DO contribute the bulk of physical violence in our society, in our world. I find it difficult to believe that women's physical violence escalates to the same level as men in the home.

However, I do believe that women contribute equal amounts of psychological abuse in almost all facets of society. I say ALMOST all simply because women do not participate equally in all areas: Law, Politics, Business etc. It is a sad indictment on the human race that both sexes are capable of the most abhorrant behaviour. The only difference is in how it is expressed. For men it is very simple to slap their partner to the floor. Women have to be more devious :-(

What I find difficult to reconcile is the claim that Family Law is controlled by feminist groups. Generally it is women who apply for custody of children and are usually on a lower income. This, of course, has changed a lot and the law needs to catch up. However, given that the majority of high office jobs are still in the hands of men, I find the claims about feminist control spurious to say the least.

Both the average woman AND man are mostly powerless - it is a primarily male elite that sets the agenda and many of them see women as mothers only and that could be a part of the reason why Family Legislation is skewed towards women, rather than to which parent is best for their children. Until the law is truly equitable - there will be women who will exploit it. However, it is partly a result of the patriarchal, traditional view of women that Family Law is so out of touch with reality. Just look how Tony Abbott tried to control RU486 - a medication for women.

Anyway, still friends.
Posted by Scout, Thursday, 30 March 2006 12:16:51 PM
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Moms, don’t let your daughters go to a French protest. There might be Muslim youths there...

In this report from Sydney's Daily Telegraph on the ongoing socialist tantrums in France, we learn that “Muslim youths” from the suburbs are preying on the demonstrators:,20285,18641620-1702,00.html

"POLICE arrested more than 100 people during disturbances on the fringes of the Paris demonstration against a new youth jobs law, according to a provisional police count.

Low-level clashes were continuing to take place in the Place de la Republique, the end point of the march in the northeast of the capital.


Earlier masked youths smashed the windows of a cafe and tried to mug people near the starting point of the march at Place d’Italie, in the south of the city.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy earlier warned that gangs from the Paris suburbs could infiltrate the demonstration."

See photos:
Posted by baraka, Thursday, 30 March 2006 1:08:34 PM
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