Yesterday I made a visit to the magnificent panopticon-styled Melbourne Magistrates Court on an oxymoronically named civil matter. Due to legalities I’m prohibited from saying anything about the main event for the time being, thus my scope for gonzo journalism is somewhat limited. I can however relate two sideshow attractions.
One is my disappointment that my higher than average iron levels didn’t set off the metal detector, something even a belt buckle can manage. Thus my dreams of becoming an x-person and having a marvel movie based on my life will have to come via other avenues.
The second is that while visiting all the sights offered to me on my grand tour. I was handed this flyer, as would have been thousands of other circuit-goers. I have edited it for gender neutrality, and in this form I can barely fault it, although I do have issue with the blanket statement that “making them feel guilty,” is a bad thing as often this can be achieved merely by calling out abusive behaviour or by reporting a crime.
Also I believe the mention of threats of suicide should have been followed up by saying that people who are having real thoughts of self-harm should discuss it with those close to them and with a medical professional. The common practice now in Australia is for anything mentioning suicide to be followed with an advertisement for Lifeline.
On one side the leaflet reads as follows:
PHYSICAL - VIOLENCE - SEXUAL / POWER AND CONTROL
● Making them afraid by using looks, actions, gestures.
● Smashing things.
● Destroying their property.
● Abusing pets.
● Displaying weapons.
USING EMOTIONAL ABUSE
● Putting them down.
● Making them feel bad about themselves.
● Calling them names.
● Making them think they’re crazy.
● Playing mind games.
● Humiliating them.
● Making them feel guilty.
● Controlling what they do, who they see and talk to, what they read, where they go.
● Limiting their outside involvement.
● Using jealousy to justify actions.
MINIMIZING, DENYING, AND BLAMING
● Making light of the abuse and not taking their concerns about it seriously.
● Saying the abuse didn’t happen.
● Shifting responsibility for abusive behaviour.
● Saying they caused it.
● Making them feel guilty about the children.
● Using the children to relay messages.
● Using visitation to harass them.
● Threatening to take the children away.
USING (any form of) PRIVILEGE
● Treating them like a servant.
● Making all the big decisions.
● Acting like the “ruler of the castle”
● Being the one to define gender roles.
USING ECONOMIC ABUSE
● Preventing them from getting or keeping a job.
● Making them ask for money.
● Giving them an allowance.
● Taking their money.
● Not letting them know about or have access to family income.
USING COERCION AND THREATS
● Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt them.
● Threatening to leave them, to commit suicide, to report them to welfare.
● Making them drop charges.
● Making them do illegal things.
As the ensuing discussion of this leaflet in its original gendered form is subject to a privacy clause, I will have to leave it up to your imagination. But as a side note, while I was waiting in line for the next ride, one of the punters next to me was having a discussion with his lawyer which seemed to encompass him having been on the receiving end of quite a few of these from someone identified as being female.
On a positive note, we have the reverse page, which contains some maxims which all of us, especially those in positions of great power and responsibility, could take note of:
NONVIOLENCE / EQUALITY
● Talking and acting so that they feel safe and comfortable expressing themselves and doing things.
● Listening to them non-judgmentally.
● Being emotionally affirming and understanding.
● Valuing opinions.
TRUST AND SUPPORT
● Supporting their goals in life.
● Respecting their right to their own feelings, friends, activities and opinions.
HONESTY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
● Accepting responsibility for self.
● Acknowledging past use of violence.
● Admitting being wrong.
● Communicating openly and truthfully.
● Sharing parental responsibilities.
● Being a positive non-violent role model for the children.
● Mutually agreeing on a fair distribution of work.
● Making family decisions together.
● Making money decisions together.
● Making sure both partners benefit from financial arrangements.
NEGOTIATION AND FAIRNESS.
● Seeking mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict.
● Accepting change.
● Being willing to compromise.
The leaflet was attributed to:
Domestic Abuse Intervention Project
202 East Superior Street
Duluth, Minnesota 55802
I plan on offering them my well-meaning editorial advice pro bono.
If this article has raised issues you’d like to talk about, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
*Ben Cannon is originally from Northwest Tasmania, where the phrase bible belt has at least three meanings in his experience, and another one if you search for it on ebay. He is presently studying a Naturopathic Bachelor of Health Science in Fitzroy, a suburb that is on trend to becoming too trendy for the trendsetters, see also: Sullivan’s Cove. As well as (legal) herbs he is also attempting to regrow his typing callouses. He is a little bit of a Germaine Greer fan, for all the right reasons and all the wrong reasons.