Love, Marriage and Terror in Melbourne’s Outer Leafies

Some memories fade too slowly. I was reminded of one such memory by the TV advertisement being aired in the lead up to White Ribbon Day tomorrow (Monday 25 November).

It was late morning on Friday, 20 September and I was at the local Magistrate’s Court on a court visit for the first assignment in my B Laws course. The court co-ordinator told me that there was only one criminal contest – that is, a trial – on that day, in Court 2. A case of recklessly causing injury.

It sounded amusing – most likely the result of a couple of bogans going the biff in the car-park of one of the areas many 1960s vintage beer barns. I went to court room expecting an hour or so of light entertainment at the expense of a boof-head who’d fallen foul of the law. More fool me.

When I entered the courtroom and sat myself down in the seat nearest the door – in the back row of three rows of public seating – there seemed to be a distinct shortage of bogans. Unless you counted the besuited guy in the middle of the second row with the wing of a tattooed bird poking out of his shirt collar.

It was late morning so I’d missed the start of proceedings. The witness box was occupied by a doctor giving testimony on the injuries suffered by the victim of the assault that led to the trial. I identified her as the woman sitting in the front row, directly in front of me. An attractive woman in her late twenties, well-dressed, sitting between an older man and woman who, I surmised, were her parents.

The defendant –‘Tim’ – was sitting at the other end of the first row of seats, behind his lawyer who was cross-examining the doctor – to little effect – when I entered. He diligently, but pointlessly, strained to dent the credibility of the photographs of the complainant’s injuries with the suggestion that they’d been photoshopped for added impact after they were taken.

Once those motions had been gone through, the Doctor was excused and the complainant – ‘Ms W’ was called back to the witness box to give an account of events after she had been assaulted. She had already  described the assault in testimony I missed by arriving after the trial was already underway. It was during her testimony that I learnt that the Tim faced a second charge in this trial – a charge of indecent assault.

Tim, her husband, had assaulted Ms W at a bed and breakfast in the Dandenong Ranges, not far from their home. They had been staying there one Saturday night with their two year old daughter. An attempt, perhaps, to rekindle the romance in their marriage. During the argument that often results from such attempts, he had seized her by the throat and slammed her head against a wall then held her squeezing her throat until the anger management training he had taken through a local community organisation finally kicked in and he let go, then left, walking home. She had called the police; the triple zero call was replayed for the court.

She was visibly distressed as she recounted these events and as the triple zero call was replayed. She explained to the court that she hadn’t gone ahead with a formal complaint on the night of that attack because in the past Tim had threatened that if she ever reported that dirty little family secret to the Police, he would kill her. He had, on one occasion, threatened to cut the brake lines on her car.

It wasn’t until she went to the local police station the following day and discussed the situation with police there that she felt confident that she would have the protection she needed to bring charges against Tim. It was then that she raised the second charge at the trial, the charge of indecent assault.

I can’t tell you how the trial turned out; it was adjourned to a later date at around 12:30pm. When that later date came, I decided I wasn’t up to attending. Unless Tim manages to carry through on his past death threats and ends up in Victoria’s Supreme Court it’s unlikely that this case of family violence in a very ordinary, mainstream place will hit the major media.

Husbands like Tim are nowhere near as rare as we would prefer to think; according to the Victoria Police report of Crime Statistics for 2012/13:

Prior to 31 August 2004, approximately 15% of assaults were family incident-related. Since the introduction  of the Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence, launched on 31 August 2004, this figure has risen steadily, and in 2012/13, family incident-related assaults accounted for 43.2% of all assaults. The Code of Practice was a program designed to improve police responses to family violence incidents and encourage community confidence to report these offences to police.

About Paul Bamford (aka Gummo T)

Gummo Trotsky is the on-line persona of Paul Bamford. Paul recently placed his intellect at risk of finally becoming productive by enrolling in a Lemonade, Lime & Bitters degree via distance education. He also plays the piano but Keith Jarrett he ain't.
This entry was posted in Law, Life, Society. Bookmark the permalink.
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 years ago

Who knows the real number — I imagine that it may well be under reported compared to other types of assault given the implications of reporting it. It’s also not just husbands. For example, I used to go to uni with this lovely guy. One day I wondered what he had been up to after not seeing him for more than a decade, and I found out.

Funnily enough, I remember going to clubs and parties and stuff like that with him, and one day he was having an argument with some other guy I didn’t know well about domestic violence stuff. At the time, I didn’t believe it (he seemed like a nice guy to me). So now I can look at the time difference between when he was presumably first beating his girlfriends and the time he went court, and would guess there would be 15 years of domestic violence where he had nothing done to him. So that’s a lot nasty stuff that didn’t get reported, just for one person. So if he is anything to go by, the 43% figure is definitely too low.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
10 years ago

Crap statistics supported by personal anecdote. Do you really think that the increase from 15% to 43% is a relevant statistic, now that attending police view every domestic dispute through a feminist lens? Speeding tickets are up too since 2004. Do you reckon we have all become lead foots?

Since you like anecdotes, let me relate one that I have intimate knowledge of, not some half remembered court case that you witnessed with a hangover.

One of my male relatives has sacrificed his life, joy and sanity to a narcissistic and controlling spouse. He drinks to forget the decades of psychological abuse endured but would never, ever raise a hand to man or woman. His extended family, male and female, agree with my assessment. Most of her family also agree.

The only time he really acknowledges his abused condition is through the courage of drink. The last time this spilled over into a domestic shouting match, she called the cops. As soon as they arrived, they smelt the booze on him and physically dragged him out of the house. She was unmarked but was screaming that he had attacked her. An utter lie. He spent a couple of hours at the cop shop explaining himself while he sobered up and was released without charge.

He now worries over whether he is a wife beater. “The police had to drag me away from a domestic situation. What have I become?” he frets. He wasn’t charge. But cases like this will appears in your bullshit 43%.

BTW: Bogan is a term for anglo celtic Aussies of lower socio-economic class. I decry the free use of this racist term, let alone the suggestion that it is just fine if they bash each other in car parks and would be of no interest.

10 years ago
Reply to  Chris Lloyd

I think the problem is you’ll never get anything but the incorrect statistics. As it happens, I think the stats are caused by reporting bias also. However, I have the opposite view of the numbers, which is it shows how far we’ve come, since it’s hard to see why the reporting of serious violence with little connection to the victim would ever be lower than the reporting of someone with an intimate connection.

You can also think about the reported data here: here which shows that slightly more males are involved in assault than females, and that most assaults against females are either by a family member or well known other and that most assaults against males are by strangers (no doubt the vast majority of those doing the assaults are male) . At least to me, this means I’d bet the figures are, if anything, an underestimation of the real numbers — so 43% is a probably a low estimate.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
10 years ago
Reply to  conrad

I never reported the couple of assaults that the father of my children perpetrated on me 30 years ago, before I ended the relationship The doctor I needed to see for the worst assault, urged me to call the police, but family said no and my need for self-respect and privacy also said no.

Back then, the police were obviously disgusted with a woman who got beaten-up; it was shameful for her – not the man – and all the woman’s fault. She asked for it by behaving badly and provoking him. Everyone knows that it is the stupid bitches who start screaming matches and they then just naturally turn into a punching match. After all, what else can a self-respecting man do when he is being attacked verbally, except use his physically to win in some way?

Back then family also said things like; you made your bed now lie in it and don’t air the dirty laundry. I, and many other women, internalised these assumptions about it being all our fault, our responsibility to manage the man. It is terrific that things are changing and I’m in awe of blokes who are taking responsibility for making a world in which women can be themselves without being scared of upsetting an angry man.

Of course, anger is a huge problem for all people who are not coping with the demands of this overly competitive and selfish society that requires everyone, to aspire to be better than everyone else and ostentatiously display their wealth to prove they are better people.

My explanation for the anger and the consequent violence in my relationship is that it began with the recession that we had to have, back in the ’80’s which meant that the work that my man depended on, dried up all of sudden and inexplicably. For people like us, who didn’t have any interest in politics or economics, that was a huge change in our lives that we didn’t understand or know how to cope with. His self-esteem plummeted and my stress levels increased as money became harder to earn, jobs unobtainable – with 10% unemployment someone has to be unlucky – and as our social status declined, the relationship deteriorated.

Chris Lloyd some men are being unfairly treated in much the same way that almost all women were once unfairly treated.
If your friend worries about being a wife-beater, tell him to get some help; talk to someone. There are some good helping type psychologists out there.

It is not the woman’s fault if a man is unhappy and worried about whether he is a wife-beater.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
10 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

This is relevant also “Are you okay, man? Why blokes just won’t ask for help”

10 years ago

It sounded amusing – most likely the result of a couple of bogans going the biff in the car-park of one of the areas many 1960s vintage beer barns. I went to court room expecting an hour or so of light entertainment at the expense of a boof-head who’d fallen foul of the law.

Fuck mate your life up to that point must have been pretty sheltered. Had you never even met anyone who had been to jail or even to court before, let alone a “bogan” who’d been beaten up as the chance victim of “a boof-head”??