Australian Institute of Criminology statistics show there were 270 child homicide incidents in Australia from July 1989 to June 1999, involving 287 identified offenders and resulting in the deaths of 316 children under 15.
For example, the revised National Homicide Monitoring Program 2006-07 Annual Report states 11 homicides involved a biological mother and 5 involves a biological father.
The Western Australian figures shed light on who is likely to abuse children in families. Mothers are identified as the perpetrator of neglect and abuse in a total of 73% of verified cases.
Biological mothers account for about 35 per cent of all child murders, while biological fathers account for 29 per cent
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A paper for the Australian Crime Prevention Council Conference:
Community Safety, Crime Prevention Models, Strategies and Alliances
Graham Stockdale MA, Melbourne Australia 17-20 October 1999
Such is the current state of domestic violence research and debate that it is possible to state that domestic violence is a complex, contentious and highly political issue, and still be accused of an understatement. It might also be said that there is more confusion between myths and realities in this area than just about any other social research. It is difficult to imagine an issue that has more profound implications for so many aspects of human life that we value highly: personal identity, interpersonal relationships, sexuality, family, sense of community, economic well-being, and the care and nurturing of children. Until relatively recently, the focus of domestic violence research has been on female victims and male perpetrators of violence. These foci are understandable when viewed in the context of the history of domestic violence research, but are coming under increasing scrutiny and criticism by 'victims' who do not fall into these categories.
Domestic violence can mean anything from murder to a dirty look. Usually, it is used to imply the worst when it may be quite minor. Many will argue that domestic violence is an open-and-shut case, that is, male violence. We hear little else in the media. I am not so sure that the community accepts the argument that it is always men who are violent in the home, despite the dominance of media attention given to women. I know that politicians are falling over themselves in the race to show they are gender aware, but they are politicians after all. My discussions with hundreds of people in the last few years - during the course of my study - convince me that people are much more realistic in there understanding of domestic violence, women as often as men.
Since 1975, approximately 100 both-sex prevalence studies, mainly in Britain and North America have shown that physical domestic violence rates are much more symmetrical between the sexes than women's advocates suggest. These studies have ranged from random nation-wide surveys of many thousands of participants to smaller regional surveys, and included national crime surveys.
Case study interview data on men victims in Britain and in Canada, reveal remarkable similarities of physical domestic violence experiences between men in these two societies, and in those in my study that I will discuss in a second.
Two recent studies in Australia have confirmed the both-sex prevalence data I have just mentioned. Dr Sotirios Sarantakos has recently completed in-depth interviews of families with histories of violence. A major aim of the Sarantakos study was to investigate the validity of criticisms that studies showing symmetrical rates of intra-partner violence are relatively meaningless because they do not consider the contexts within which the violence occurred. The Sarantakos findings confirmed these studies showing symmetry between couples and also that self-defence as an argument for all women's violence could not be sustained.
A recent representative survey by Dr Bruce Headey and Dr Dorothy Scott from the University of Melbourne, and Dr David de Vaus from Latrobe University, on approximately 800 men and 800 women, has again confirmed the accuracy of claims from other both-sex surveys that rates of violence between heterosexual couples are approximately equal, but interestingly, that men appeared to suffer more physical injuries.
Now, these studies did take place, and the criticisms of their validity have been shown to be fallacious. And, the results are remarkably consistent, both in the quantitative instruments and the similarities of stories in the in-depth interviews. So something better must come from them than relegating them to the unspoken-about men's nonsense that the feminist literature infers.
Through 1997 and 1998 I conducted a qualitative study of 20 men for my Masters degree, and I have summarized the findings here.
I want to include one quote here from one of the men in my study, because I think it sums up the general feeling of most of them.
"What I did to her was apparently a crime, what she did to me was not. For no other reason than displaying my frustration physically - and remember she was never physically hurt - I lost everything at the time: the house, my job, the children. I want you to understand what I am saying here: this is not simply a relationship breakdown. This is domestic violence: one person in an intimate relationship with another, going for the jugular. Knowing and wanting to cause maximal damage to that other person. This is not unconscious, it is deliberate and sustained. But worst of all, she is not doing it alone. She is doing it with the help of the system: state sanctioned domestic violence if you like. She knows she has the support of the system, the community sentiment. She knows as a man I have nowhere to turn, and she knows as a woman she can get away with it. She knew she had it over me because I was a man. By that I do not necessarily mean any formal system, but the general community support of the 'defenceless woman', the 'a man must not hit a woman' doctrine. She had the trump-card. And I knew that too. People would look down on me and support her, even if they saw it happen. My behaviour, as with most men, was overt and observable. Hers was always covert. Beneath the belt. In the end, hers caused more damage. She was able to ruthlessly breach consent orders and callously manipulate intervention orders with complete impunity, to isolate me of my family and my life as a father, aided and abetted by the system."
As is often the case in researching complex matters: as many issues and questions are raised as it tries to answer. I want to leave the following questions and issues with you as food for thought, as you try to grapple with how to reduce and prevent domestic violence.
I want to say something here about a conversation I had with a woman who was involved in a national survey conducted by the OSW, a few years ago. The survey asked women whether their male partners had hit them in the last twelve months, to which most answered "yes". When I said to this woman, "but what actually happened to you" she told me that she threw a hot cup of coffee in his face, and he had hit her in response". It may well have been that greater injury was done to him than her, but nevertheless, another tick went down against men. Now, I am not saying this case is typical, but it does highlight the potentially misleading nature of surveys that ask simplistic tick-box questions of one sex only.
Graham Stockdale is a PhD candidate currently interviewing men victims of domestic violence.
Before I proceed, I have to stop at this point and say ."In no way, what I am saying, takes anything away from domestic violence to women by their male partners.
(Shupe et al (1987), Sommer (1994)
It seems to me we have an ethical crisis here: as many historians and philosophers of science have pointed out in recent decades, knowledge of our physical and social world is not given, rather, it is a human construct. We cannot 'know' something in the sense of systematically researched and verifiable information unless we direct our research attention to it. This means that knowledge derived from research is not value free, in part because our knowledge is dependent on what we choose to investigate.
18 November 2007
Men's groups are calling for mandatory paternity testing of all newborns as it emerges a record number of men are finding they are not the fathers of children they believed to be theirs.
Almost a quarter of paternity tests conducted by one of Australia's largest DNA laboratory companies show the man submitting a sample is not the father, compared to an estimated one in 10 "exclusions" 10 years ago.
The number of tests taken in Australia has doubled from 3000 in 2003 to more than 6000 last year. Read More …