- #Takeastand against domestic violence with the Herald Sun twitter campaign
Declaring family violence one of the most significant law-and-order problems in Victoria, Mr Lay said men of all socio-economic backgrounds had to face up to the consequences of their crimes. “I know of some very high-profile people, some very well-respected people that bash their wives,” he said. “Some men are very good at hiding their violence from those outside the home.” Half of Victoria’s 42,076 assaults last year were committed in the home. Family members – almost always women – were the victims of 16,046 of those assaults. Mr Lay said these figures were completely unacceptable and the Victorian community would no longer tolerate the excuses men gave to explain away their violence. In an uncompromising interview, Mr Lay called on all Victorians to reconsider what we believed was appropriate behaviour. And he called on male community leaders to take a stand, saying it was time to change the public narrative on our treatment of women. “Since I’ve been Chief Commissioner, when you think about key community issues you often think about who are the spokesmen? Who are the community advocates, who are the high-profile advocates? In the violence against women space, there’s no one,” he said. “There’s no male that stands up and says ‘this is simply outrageous and it needs to stop’. And the message needs to be from the males.
Chief Commissioner Ken Lay says it is up to men to take a stand against family violence.
“That’s my level of frustration.” Asked if he was not that male advocate, Mr Lay replied: “I sense that I am. “I need to take a much more active role in this. It’s only in recent times that I have seen the lack of advocacy – now that’s in the corporate area, it’s in the community, it’s right across society. ”There should be men, and they’re usually leaders, who need to be able to stand up and take a stand, and it’s not just me. “It’s It’s corporate leaders, it’s government. It’s sporting leaders, it’s people that actually can look men in the eye and say ‘that is not appropriate’.” Mr Lay said the murders of young women Jill Meagher and Sarah Cafferkey, while not in a family violence context, had heightened public concern about violence against women, culminating in a march down Brunswick’s Sydney Rd attended by 30,000 people. “There’s no doubt that since both of those tragedies there has been a shift (in public attitudes),” he said. “They’re two very serious cases, two horrible cases, but in the last 12 months we’ve attended 50,000 incidents of family violence, many thousands of women have been assaulted in the street and we haven’t had the public commentary of vilifying offenders for those. “So we need to get better at actually calling men to account, not just for that outrageous, criminal behaviour but also the inappropriate behaviour.”
Mr Lay said violence against women was closely linked to general attitudes about how women could be treated.
“Now I see that all the time, I see where women are assaulted, and most often the narrative is around what she could have done to prevent it,” he said.
”She was drunk, she was wearing a short dress, she was out at 2 o’clock in the morning.
”Nothing about the thugs, or the criminals or the piggish males that think it’s their right to assault, insult, or threaten women.
“I guess this is the really frustrating part for me during this whole conversation.”
Mr Lay said he heard on a regular basis of instances where women in licensed premises, or walking down the street, were groped by men.
“That behaviour needs to be called. And that’s not me – that’s friends, that’s work colleagues, that’s associates of people who behave like that,” he said.
“How did we get to a space where men think it’s all right to reach out and grab a woman on the breast or pinch her bum in a hotel? How can we think that’s all right?
”How do we challenge that sort of behaviour? How do we move a community’s culture away from demeaning women like that? Because I’m not convinced that parts of our society think it’s inappropriate.”
Mr Lay rejected the suggestion that some women just accepted unwelcome physical touching as an unpleasant but unavoidable price of a night out with friends. “If women think that’s part of going out, do other women accept that being punched by their husband’s OK? Do other women accept that being vilified or called a slut by some unknown male is OK? It’s not OK and it’s a far broader problem I think than most of us are willing to accept.” Mr Lay said women who were the victims of violence in their own homes needed strong advocates to speak up for them, and should not be pressured into believing it was up to them to somehow fix the violence. “When you have these really high-profile cases, when you have issues within the media about women being assaulted, who stands up and actually challenges the behaviour of the men involved? It does my head in every now and again,” he said. “I say to people like the media, people like me, people out there at the water cooler. The discussion needs to be about the male. The discussion needs to be about the perpetrator. “We can, as a community, change that narrative. We know that if we continue to talk about it, continue to push it out there, we’ve seen community attitudes change over the years in a whole host of areas. “But it’s incumbent on me, and I think other male community leaders, to actually lead that discussion. To be out there pointing out that this is not the woman’s fault. “We need to make sure (abusive) men feel like they’re ostracised, they’re vilified, that their behaviour is simply unacceptable.
The murders of Sarah Cafferkey and Jill Meagher had heightened public concern about violence against women, says Chief Commissioner Ken Lay.
He said the case of wealthy businessman James Ramage, who killed his wife Julie at their Balwyn home after a history of violence, showed that domestic abuse happened at every level of the community. “It includes people who are very articulate, people who are very convincing and can hide very well their criminal behaviour so it’s not surprising to me from time to time quite intelligent people will be fooled into thinking that particular behaviour hasn’t occurred,” he said. “This happens at every level of society. Every level of society. And there’s well publicised cases of people with very high media profiles who have engaged in pretty horrible behaviours with their partners.” Mr Lay urged women who were being abused by their partners to consider turning to police for help. “I understand how difficult it is for women to stand up and try to change the situation. They need to be enormously courageous,” he said. ”But they need to understand there are a host of services out there that can make them safer. “Victoria Police works very, very hard to try and ensure that happens and we’d encourage them to contact us and share their story and hopefully we can give them some assistance and make them safer. “The most important thing about this though is there is a growing understanding across the community that no woman should be bashed by their husband or their partner or relative or anyone else in their own home, and there is help available.” Mr Lay directly addressed the men who abused, intimidated and attacked their partners, saying: “It doesn’t take any guts to punch a woman. It’s not tough, it’s not manly. It’s simply unacceptable.’
“And we’re absolutely committed to holding people – men – accountable if they decide this is a smart thing to do.”
Mr Lay also reached out to the many thousands of Victorians who knew or suspected that violence was occurring in the home.
“History is littered with a whole host of stories where friends and relatives haven’t had the courage or good sense to stand up and protect women who are being abused in their homes.
“There’s lots of stories about those women who have ended up as victims of a homicide or victims of very, very serious assaults.
“So I just ask men in particular to be a bit courageous when they know of these situations.
“They need to have conversations. They need to challenge behaviours.
“They need to help victims rather than ignore them. They should not be bystanders.”
Mr Lay said the community reaction to the shocking photographs of British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson in tears after her husband Charles Saatchi put his hands around her throat during an argument at a restaurant had infuriated him.
“I guess that at that time I probably felt the greatest level of frustration around the family violence space, the violence against women space, than I have for some time,” he said.
“When you have a male that thinks it’s appropriate to throttle a woman in public, then pass it off as something just fairly minor…
“Often the commentary was written by women … and it was often about Nigella and how she could have prevented this and what she should do to prevent it again.
“I didn’t see a lot of anything about this husband, partner, and his criminal act, how offensive it was, how demeaning it was.
“And how he possibly got to that point that he thought what he was doing was appropriate and then he had the gall to publicly defend his action as being appropriate.
“I looked at those photos and the first thing I thought was ‘what a coward he was.’
“She (Nigella) was defenceless, he was exerting power over her and she was obviously frightened.
“Then you start thinking about the 50,000 other women this year that have been in very similar circumstances, that didn’t have the advantage of a newspaper front page, who face that sort of assault or threat many, many, many times in a year.
“It’s easy to feel sorry for the celebrity but by geez there’s a lot of women in exactly the same position that don’t have the protection that she’s got or have the ability to tell their story or the courage to stand up and tell their story out of fear.”
Mr Lay said the Victoria Police force had come a long way in its management of family violence.
“I think we’re getting better at it. I think we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We reflect the community we police, and sometimes some in our organisation, there are attitudes perhaps not as well informed as I’d like it.
“But, by gee, there’s a big group of people both men and women who get it and get it very strongly. We’ve come a hell of a long way in 10 years.”
Mr Lay said former commissioners Christine Nixon and Simon Overland had both focused strongly on preventing violence against women.
“Half of our assaults this year were in the home. That gives you a sense of the problem. You know we’ll talk, the community discussions, the media discussions about how unsafe the streets are and licensed premises and the like but when you actually look at the data the most significant problem is in the home.
”By far the vast proportion of that is men bashing women.”
Mr Lay sad there was more work for the police and the courts to do in tackling family violence.
“The courts are seeing the sheer volume coming through their system, which is obviously reinforcing the problem,” he said.
”I think the sheer volume makes it difficult sometimes for the courts and for victims to tell their story.
”And there is a lot of work for the police and the courts to dory and make the courts a better experience for victims of family violence because I know there’s lots of anecdotes out there where it hasn’t been.
“I’m talking about turning up to court, the way courts are set up, not necessarily set up for women to feel safe.
”This is an enormous challenge for most women I would have thought. To go to court, to lay themselves bare, to talk about some very intimate parts of their life and only be a matter of feet away from the perpetrator.
“So we’ve got that problem about the set-up. We’ve got the problem about the sheer volume. We see things now like family violence courts where there’s a level of consistency about how they deal with these matters, which is great, and there’s support services around.
“Both the courts and police, we understand that the system is under enormous pressure and we have got to work as best we can around systems and processes to try to make it a better experience.”
Mr Lay said violence in the home was not a new problem, but the police were focusing on it like never before.
“Men have been assaulting their partners for thousands of years. You look back in time, sometimes it’s culturally acceptable,” he said.
”Thankfully we’ve got to a space where now, in our society, it’s not.
”I’ve got no doubt at all if you went back 40 or 50 years just as many people would have been assaulted in their homes, but women tended to not talk about it and it was almost invisible.
“Society’s developing, women have got far more confidence. We’ve (police) got better at accepting reports and investigating.
”Courts have got better at dealing with it. But there’s still a hell of a long way to go. We don’t think we’re anywhere near the top of the reporting loop yet.”
Mr Lay said he had been advised that the increase in family violence reports may plateau within two to three years.
“I’m not convinced,” he said.
“We are pushing as hard as we possibly can to increase the confidence of women to report.
”I suspect we’ve still got a long, long way to go and the frustrating thing for both myself and my people is we can’t put an end date on it.
”We just have to keep committing resources to it, we need to be super-aggressive, we need to be holding men to account, we need to make family violence absolutely totally unacceptable.”
If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call police on 000.
If you or someone you care about is living with an abusive partner or family member call the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service of Victoria’s 24-hour crisis line on 1800 015 188 or 9322 3555.
For national counselling, helpline, information and support 24-hours call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
If you’re a man and worried that your behaviour may be hurting someone you care about, call the Men’s Referral Service on 1800 065 973 or 9428 2899 (9am-9pm weekdays). Website is www.mrs.org.au
If you suspect a male friend or family member is abusing someone at home, approach them by using words such as: “It sounds like you’re having a tough time – it might be good to talk to someone about it.”
Try to get them to call the Men’s Referral Service on 1800 065 973 (9am to 9pm weekdays).