If your relationship is in difficulties, or you know of some one experiencing hard times, do something positive about it NOW.
The Australian Family law court was established in 1976.
“The Court’s goal is to deliver excellence in service for children, families and parties through effective judicial and non-judicial processes and high-quality and timely judgments while respecting the needs of separating families.”
Before The Court House Steps
I believe the real work in resolving relationship breakdown, minimising domestic violence and suicide should begin long before any couple reach the courthouse steps.
Our family law system was originally designed to “deliver excellence in service for children, families and parties through effective judicial and non judicial process…”,
What Has Gone Wrong…?
With domestic violence in relationship breakdown on the increase despite the lordly ambitions of the Family Court why is this happening?
Playing a blame game and dumping it all on the court house steps alone is not helpful. Since its inception in 1976, the family law court has been the catalyst for the development of a complex support industry, one that has expanded unchecked. These support mechanisms, such as lawyers, family counsellors and others, that surround the court system also contribute to its systematic dysfunction.
Preying on Vulnerable People is The Shadow Side of This System
The gap between the front line and the court house steps has become a real mine field of predatory and money driven behaviours, or at best ones that are merely naive. These behaviours are preying on vulnerable people and further aggravating an already tense situation for financial gain.
Preying on vulnerable people for financial gain, particularly in the legal system, is the real shadow side of our family law system.
Relationship Breakdown is Becoming More Violent
There is limited information available on the percentage of all relationship failures (not just marriages), compared to how many succeed and what makes them different. But we do know that the consequences of relationship breakdown are becoming more costly.
Statistics ABS 2017 indicate 87% of women do not report violence to the police, with 97% of men not reporting, so it would be prudent to assume this problem is potentially much larger than what is currently understood.
After relationship breakdown and separation, 37% of women experience violence and 35% of men experience violence from their recently estranged partner.
Police at The Front Line of Domestic Violence
Our police across Australia, daily at the front line of domestic disputes, currently attend 5000 call outs per week. Unfortunately, police are only called in after things have really got out of hand.
Clare Blumer, in her 2016 ABC article….
“There is no standard definition of domestic and family violence across all jurisdictions in Australia and no standard way for counting the number of police call-outs to situations related to domestic violence.”
Police Intervention is Essential, Yet Preventable
Police must and do intervene, sometimes at great personal risk, to assess and calm things down. In some cases, they are instructed to then remove the most obvious threat, regardless of who is the instigator and even if both have contributed equally to their situation.
Because the man is usually stronger, larger and can do more harm, he is usually the person removed, as men can, and do, resort to physical violence as their means of regaining control.
In these circumstances, police may issue a AVO/DVO on one.
In other cases, one or both of the couple may apply themselves, sometimes both have court orders on each other and still live under the same roof.
These steps do force behaviour changes, as any breaches then become criminal offences with long lasting effects that most people have no understanding of. Yet even these orders are breached with those doing so suffering the consequences.
Couples Are Still Not Required to Seek Support
For the couple, there is still no pressure of responsibility or ownership in seeking professional help.
This is where the court system becomes part of the problem rather than the solution, by supporting applications for protection without checking their legitimacy.
As a generalisation in domestic abuse situations, men and women react and respond very differently, even when both have contributed equally to their current situation. Men are more overt in their violence, women more covert.
For some women, court orders are an attractive and convenient ploy in their own version of the power play game.
A claim of “alleged violence” can be used as a form of control and abuse, and often used with impunity.
This form of control is destructive to any relationship, as when men use physical threats and abuse as their fall back position in attempting to regain control.
Glen Pools Parliamentary Submission “Stop Male Suicide”
“When we listen to the lived experience of men involved in family law matters, a common
theme is that they are subjected to false allegations, sometimes resulting in an ADVO
(apprehended domestic violence order).
False allegations appear to be a uniquely gendered crime. Research by the Crown
Prosecution Service in the UK found that 92% of people suspected of making false
allegations were female and 98% of alleged victims were male.”
and goes on further to add…
“One survey of 68 NSW magistrates concerning apprehended violence orders (AVOs), found
that 90 per cent agreed that some ADVOs were sought as a tactic to aid their case in order to
deprive a former partner of contact with the children, which suggests the issue merits further
While the question of false allegations is a difficult and uncomfortable issue to address, the
problem does exist and has been associated with increased suicide risk.”
A Golden Opportunity for Intervention
At this point, there exists a golden opportunity to issue both sides of this relationship breakdown with an order and condition that they both seek professional counselling ASAP.
Any system that automatically blames one gender will fail, if therapy is to work, then both sides must attend.
This may be interpreted as a threat to liberties etc, but how many more people need to die before this message gets through, considering how few couples seek voluntary support…?
Psychology Today contributor Author of Master Conflict Therapy, Stephen J Betchen states
“This struggle for control can be more destructive to relationships than most people realise. In some couples the battle for control can escalate into emotional and physical abuse, which should come as no surprise given that power and control have long been positively correlated with abuse”.
Glen Pools Parliamentary Submission “Stop Male Suicide”
“To achieve this we need to confront that fact that female perpetrators and male victims are
less likely to be identified within the current system of family law and that a better system will
need to be more effective at reaching these under-represented groups if it is to be help
reduce the high rates of suicide linked to family violence.
Our ability to prevent female perpetrators and male victims from dying by suicide will be
limited if we continue to make these individuals invisible by downplaying their existence and
invalidating their experience.”
The System is Not Working
The system is clearly not working and is desperately in need of change, but not so much the court itself, but more guidelines and enforcement for the support industries.
Changing priorities towards timely intervention of support and guidance for couples having difficulties long before they reach the courthouse steps should be a priority.
I believe the most important aspect of change is beginning with and simply making relationship breakdown and domestic violence a non gender issue, treating all genders equally.
Statistics clearly indicate this fact, so why are we still locked in making this issue all men’s fault?
AVO/DVO applications should automatically require compulsory couples therapy.
I believe it would make a difference if all Police, Doctors, Social workers and other professionals, on becoming aware of potential relationship breakdown problems, supported a system of earlier and automatic intervention, that included BOTH sides of the relationship, regardless of fault.
This order would compel the couple to seek help earlier, and would then be on record.
This whole process could be overseen by social workers, who would then have records of abuse, the amount and quality of help received and other details.
If there exists potentially traumatic abuse issues, intervention would assist in identifying future dangerous situations, especially any abusive and suicidal tendencies, allowing and supporting significantly more positive outcomes.
Left alone, these patterns can and do escalate into destructive and damaging behaviours, which is only a very short step into something much worse, as we have seen in violent deaths as a result of family breakdown.
Early Intervention is Essential
Earlier intervention would go a long way towards minimising the pain and trauma in that highly charged and emotional state.
Currently courts and police waste time getting caught up in these control seeking and game playing antics.
Regardless of quality of the therapy (and we do need to be training many more and better relationship therapists), letting a couple know that they are now responsible and being held accountable for what happens behind closed doors can only be a positive step.
The real work in relationship breakdown, domestic violence and suicide prevention should start long before any couple winds up on the court house steps.
Early intervention is essential in relationship breakdown, yet when most people are left on their own, because of Relationship Apathy, the average time span from the emergence of an issue to when couples actually choose to seek help is 6 years .
Far too many couples don’t seek help, usually out of shame in admitting they have a problem they cannot resolve themselves or fear of the counseling process.
Sadly, according to ABS austats, the average length of relationships prior to divorce is 12 years, with failure of second relationships nearly 70%.
Relationship Breakdown is a Breeding Ground for Domestic Violence
Relationship breakdown is the breeding ground for a significant percentage of violence, abuse and suicide.
Also, when defining domestic violence and abuse it is important to include all aspects of physical and emotional abuse, including demeaning or embarrassing comments, put downs, pushing, slapping, choking, prevention from seeing friends/family, controlling money, threatening and preventing access to children are just some.
Victims of domestic violence include partners, children, siblings and parents.
Current Debate has Become a Gender Blame Game
The current debate around domestic violence is intensely emotional and has been reduced to a gender blame game.
Glen Pools Parliamentary Submission “Stop Male Suicide”
“When more than 800 murders and suicides a year are linked to family violence (and two
thirds of those who die are male) we cannot allow those who take a one-sided gender political
narrative violence to prevent us from confronting the incontrovertible link between family
violence and suicide in Australia, that places the lives of both men and women at risk”.
On one side, we have a well funded and vocal feminist movement, publicly making claims how vile men are, and how important it is for the system to protect vulnerable women, and on the other is a silent majority of male deaths
Currently, 1 woman per week is murdered by her intimate partner, with the total number of deaths being 15 times higher, when including men and other family members, and relationship breakdown related suicides.
At the moment, we are experiencing a surge in the numbers of women murdering their children, as women murder more children in Australia than men.
Men are Only Half the Problem
Holding men solely accountable for domestic abuse and violence is vital but is only dealing with half the problem. This issue is not gender based considering that two thirds of all family violence deaths are male, including deaths of domestic violence suicide.
Limiting this debate to only one aspect of domestic violence is costing lives.
As awareness of abuse is increasing, we are experiencing a rapidly increasing number of vulnerable men who need support and guidance but have limited options of support available.
We need to better support, and call to account, all aspects of domestic abuse and violence by both men and women.
I Have Been to That Suicide Edge
I have been forced to the suicide edge myself, and nearly became a statistic, and as a man, I intimately understand how hopeless and isolating this process feels, with the most damaging part being how little empathy or acknowledgment men like myself receive in this place.
Decades later, I still feel this, and it still impacts my relationship with my adult children.
It is that savage.