Bettina Arndt: The domestic violence gravy train – most domestic violence support goes to women who aren’t at risk

Vimala, a retired Indian university lecturer, looked forward to spending time with her son, a Sydney-based doctor, his wife, and newborn grandchild. But it quickly became apparent that things weren’t going well between her son and his wife.

Twice during her brief visit, her daughter-in-law called the police alleging domestic violence over trivial arguments with her husband. On one occasion she decided she wanted beef for dinner and demanded her husband provide it. Vimala explains: “Her fridge was stacked with chicken, fish, lamb but she decided she needed the beef straight away, and threatened to call the police if my son didn’t give in.”

The young woman had a standard response anytime her husband asked her to do something which displeased her: “I know all the services and who to call if you tell me to do something I don’t like.”

The woman had acquired a friend who worked in a DV support service – a friend who proved useful when she returned with her child after a trip to India to be met by social workers who whisked her off to a women’s shelter. This affluent doctor’s wife received six months’ accommodation via the shelter while their support team orchestrated a mighty family law battle over custody, fueled by her allegations of domestic violence.

The well-oiled system set up to support DV victims all just rolled out: legal aid; support services; victim’s compensation. Meanwhile her husband fought to maintain his medical practice despite his violence order restrictions and his wife spreading news of his “violence” throughout the small community. He’s a lucky man – in the end he managed to fund the half a million-dollar legal battle and now has majority care of his son.

Vimala wrote saying that, from an outsider’s perspective, the services available to Australian women claiming to be domestic violence victims are just unbelievable.

All aboard the domestic violence gravy train

Most people have no idea of the extent to which domestic violence benefits have mushroomed over the last few decades. The industry has set up an immense system of special services costing our community billions of dollars which no one dares question.

That’s because this huge juggernaut is based on a kernel of truth, a very genuine need which everyone would support. Who’d quarrel with providing proper support for a frightened woman escaping a dangerous man? 

Our federal government spent 3 billion over the past decade on the safety plan to protect “women and their children,” with untold billions added from all the fundraising by community groups, private companies and organizations across the country. People rightly dig deep for this important cause.

But the fortunate truth is only tiny numbers of women in this country are actually in peril. Official statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey show that just over 1% of women have been physically assaulted by their partners in the past year. Yet this critical fact is inevitably swamped by statistics which include emotional, psychological, financial abuse and threats of violence for women over their lifetimes, combined to give a truly frightening impression of widespread risk for women.

The vast majority of these women are not in a dangerous situation. The public doesn’t realize they are forking out mainly to help women who are very rarely under threat. They may have unpleasant partners who are reluctant to pay their credit card bills but there’s just no logic for the billions being spent to “keep them safe.”

Yet we have created this moral hazard, inviting all these women to think of themselves as victims and hence eligible for the services now on offer. The result is on display in the inflated figures from police reports, blown out by numerous domestic violence allegations which serve to gain strategic advantage in family law battles. Many women are encouraged to make such allegations by lawyers or friends telling them they are genuine victims and deserve special treatment in the family court system.   

No evidence of physical violence is required to make such an allegation. Any experience of emotional abuse or an alleged fear of violence is enough to set the ball rolling, with the “victim” eligible for the truckload of financial payouts, cheap services, and support.

There’s widespread concern in our community that for every dollar spent on genuine domestic violence victims, vast sums end up in the hands of women who are at no real risk. I’ve made videos with two police officers speaking out about this rorting of the system, here and here.  

Government handouts  

The list of domestic violence payments and handouts is really something else. Take a look at these government special benefits which are usually available only to female victims. These payouts simply require asking someone to support the victim’s story – like a local DV centre, or doctor or police report – systems set up to automatically believe the woman and treat men as potential perpetrators.  

Our state and federal governments are falling over each other to display their generosity towards our culture’s most favored victim:

  • There’s the $5k Escaping Violence Payment funded by the federal government
  • This can be topped up by victims of crime payments – like the $5k offered in NSW plus up to $30k to cover losses.
  • The Commonwealth chips in with a 4 week Crisis Payment for those claiming severe financial crisis due to DV – calculated using complex pension related formula.
  • There’s crisis accommodation across the country, even putting victims into motels.
  • Victims are given help with rent, and priority for social housing.
  • Staying Home Leaving Violence programs turf hubby out so women can stay at home, helpfully changing locks to keep the villain well away.
  • Meanwhile, male victims have nowhere to go – there’s not a single government-funded centre offering refuge to men. Boys 14 and older are not welcome in women’s refuges which take in their mums and siblings. Yet, while vulnerable males are ignored, women can have pets taken care of by the RSPCA

Permanent residency the easy way

Forget about those leaky boats, long stays on Christmas Island, and grovelling appeals to immigration courts. The fast and sure way for newcomers to arrange permanent residency is a domestic violence claim. Law firms everywhere are touting for business in this lucrative field, as I discussed some years ago on YouTube with law professor Augusto Zimmermann.

As a bonus, the Australian Red Cross Family and Domestic Violence (FDV) Financial Assistance Program offers $3k for those having a go at this one.

Corporate largesse

Naturally the woke big end of town is keen to dole out investors’ dollars to this worthy cause.

  • Like the banks. Here’s NAB giving grants  to women leaving violent relationships and CBA offering help with repayments
  • Utility companies offer victims discounted fees and debt waivers.
  • There are special arrangements for tenants in rental agreements.  
  • The push is on for 10 days paid domestic violence leave, a stunning impost on business which the Australian Chamber of Commerce estimates could cost a cool $2 billion annually. The only proof required is the usual tick-a-box system dependent on victim’s stories which employers don’t dare challenge.  

The Family Law DV conveyor belt

That whole list of perks pales into insignificance compared to the advantages of domestic violence victim status in family law battles. An unproven allegation of domestic violence sets women up on a path which allows for smooth sailing throughout family law proceedings, creating enormous, costly obstacles for their partners which often end up destroying the father’s relationships with his children and robbing him of much of his life’s earnings.

Often men discover a divorce is on the cards only when police appear at their door announcing an apprehended violence order – which means they aren’t allowed in their homes, and are often denied contact with their children, severing close connections until matters are resolved in the courts, mums firmly established as the primary parent with dad on the outer.

That’s just the beginning. The family law system favours women alleging domestic violence in any number of ways: seizing of the marital home; free legal aid and court advocacy services; denying perpetrators cross examination of victims; and setting aside the rebuttable presumption of shared parental responsibility creating major impediments to a father’s ongoing relationships with children. The couple is excluded from attending what is normally compulsory mediation and other alternate non-adversarial pathways; victims usually retain a larger slice of the assets in financial settlements plus the man labelled a perpetrator encounters profound prejudice through the family law process.

This extraordinary level of incentive will tempt even the best of women to take advantage of these services. After all, almost all women heading for divorce have experienced the threats and harsh words common to marital unhappiness but now labelled “domestic violence”. So, she’s not making a false allegation, is she? Just rightly claiming emotional abuse.     

Enough already?

You may think the job is done – surely the system is now primed to offer every possible protection to domestic violence victims.

Not so fast. The sisterhood is busy thinking up new ways that women can use to make lives hell for an ex accused of domestic violence. Like domestic violence registers, online lists of men accused of domestic violence. Some years ago, one of these was published in Australia but then some bright bloke had the brilliant idea of hacking into the register and publishing details of the women who’d dobbed the men in. Unsurprisingly the register immediately disappeared.

But there’ll always be more, like the electronic surveillance of perpetrators being used in some states, forcing them to wear monitoring devices.

The endless expansion of services is truly impressive. But how shameful that so little of this massive effort and expenditure protects those genuinely in need.

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