I read an article yesterday entitled ‘A connection to hope in a world of violence‘, concerning the operation of a charity active in the sphere of domestic violence and sexual assault called ‘DV Connect‘. It featured the usual feminist spin that comes with the territory, but the part that turned my stomach was the following:
“Every now and then a perpetrator calls, desperate to find where his spouse is. Often these men present themselves as victims, hoping to unearth the addresses where their partners might be seeking safety from the storm.“
Now, just a quick reminder to readers that at least one third of the victims of domestic violence are men. Staff at DV Connect are apparently so astute that they can confidently differentiate between those men (actual victims) and that very small minority of men who are actually abusers. A remarkable feat by any standards.
In their web site DV Connect describe themselves as follows:
“DVConnect is the only state wide telephone service offering anyone affected by domestic or family violence a free ‘crisis hotline’ 24 hours a day 7 days a week
We offer free, professional and non-judgemental telephone support, wherever you live in Queensland.
DVConnect Womensline takes over 4000 calls every month from Queensland women who are in fear of or in immediate threat of danger from Domestic or Family Violence, and on average we assist over 350 of them and often more than 400 children to be moved to safety every month.
We can arrange practical assistance such as counselling, intervention, transport and emergency accommodation for Queensland women and children who are in danger from a violent partner or family member”.
Yes, you read that correctly, their telephone support is “non-judgemental”. I guess they just mean the service provided for female callers, because they seem perfectly willing to judge the men who call … as mainly comprising perpetrators.
And notice how, within the space of a few lines, they morph from an organisation providing services to “anyone affected by domestic or family violence“, to one that’s here to help “Queensland women“.
DV Connect provides both a Mensline and Womensline service. The Mensline page in their web site has been re-written since I originally wrote this post, and now makes mention of men seeking help as both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence. The Womensline page assumes that women can only be victims of domestic violence despite this being obviously untrue.
Details regarding how the Mensline services operates in a discriminatory manner can be found in this reddit discussion thread.
I was unable to locate DV Connect within the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission’s register, but their 2013/14 annual report can be downloaded here. A few extracts illustrating the gynocentric bias within this organisation are shown below:
(p9) “We not only work with almost every specialist and community service throughout Queensland around the safety needs of women and children but we also have the unique position of having a ‘helicopter view’ of the sector as a whole … The physical and psychological safety of women and children living with domestic violence is the overriding focus of our work both on Womensline and Mensline.”
(p14) “An even smaller number of men call Mensline because of violence from a female partner or family member. Often this violence is on a very different level to that experienced where the male is the perpetrator of violence. Most of these situations do not have the element of fear in these relationships …”
(p17/18) “Sadly, hundreds of women, children and their beloved pets across Queensland are constrained in violent and fearful relationships because the fear and practical challenges of leaving are just too overwhelming.”
“Every month in Australia six women die at the hands of their intimate partner, at least one of them is from Queensland” and “Sadly in the year ended June 2014 we held 10 rallies for 18 women who died at the hands of their male partners“.
Minimal mention is made of male victims, apparently less important than pets. And when they are acknowledged (as above) their experience is discounted/diminished. And no mention anywhere, in the entire report, of female perpetrators.
I wish I could say that this type of unfair gender-stereotyping was rare or unusual, but I can’t. The fact is that most organisations working in the field, both government and non-government, are just as biased. Their web pages, their helplines, and their brochures and PR material, all relentlessly drive home a message of men as perpetrators and women as their victims. I provide a few examples of this in other posts within my blog, such as this one.
One of the outcomes of this situation is that only a small number of men call seeking assistance and/or to report what is happening in their homes. I would further suggest that another outcome is the large number of suicides by men involved in situations of actual or alleged domestic violence.
Perversely, DV advocacy groups then use this fact (very small number of male callers versus female callers) to to ‘prove’ their claims that very few men are victims of domestic violence. They also use it as a basis for, for example, reducing the level of services provided for men whilst ramping up the services for women.
Men know full well that they won’t be taken seriously if they call these organisations, and that they may be accused of being perpetrators in denial. Many also know that even if they are given a sympathetic hearing then there are no actual support services available to them (e.g. beds in shelters). In fact, by and large, the only services provided for men are anger management classes (yet, ironically, no such classes are available for the women abusing them).
And invariably (and ridiculously) when anyone dares to question the status quo they are attacked on the basis that they are either ignorant, wilfully denying that women are victims of DV and/or uncaring about the plight of female victims.
But back now to DV Connect’s annual report. The financial statement included within the report informs us that the organisation’s total revenue in 2014 was $3,231,446. The statement does not provide a breakdown of their revenue sources, which is somewhat unusual. I have, however, subsequently been advised by the relevant agency that:
“DVConnect Ltd received $2,853,133 in 2013-2014 and $2,666,064 in 2012-2013 from the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services to provide domestic and family violence and sexual assault support services.”
As is typical for the sector, the overwhelming bulk of DV Connect’s expenditure goes towards salaries and employee-related expenses:
“DVConnect now employs 54 staff including a small management and administration team and almost 50 counselling staff all of whom work varying shifts to cover our 7 day 24 hour telephone service.”
In May 2015 it was announced that “DV Connect will receive an extra $750,000 per year for two years, on top of existing funding ($3.17m in 2014/15) for services including counsellors to expand its Womensline telephone support service.”
This reddit.com discussion thread discusses the discriminatory nature of the Mensline service, and calls on people to write letters in an attempt to resolve this situation.
And elsewhere in Queensland?
Here are two screenshots from the web site of a Queensland Government agency. The wording assumes that any men seeking help in relation to domestic violence are perpetrators, and that any women seeking help are victims.
Unfortunately this bias is replicated in the web sites of other similar Australian government and non-government agencies. One example, involving a Western Australian government agency, is addressed in another post in my blog.
Postscript 27 March 2015: In order to provide further insight into the mindset within DV Connect, let me relay what just occurred. I contributed a comment to the Facebook page of DV Connect, in relation to an item about the release of the QLD Task Force report on family violence. I simply noted that I had prepared some comments on the report and included a link to the relevant page (refer screensave below). By the next morning the comment that I posted had been removed from public view. It seems that DV Connect wants to prevent their supporters accessing alternative perspectives. That looks a lot like ‘controlling behaviour’ to me.
To the left is what I see when I visit DV Connect’s page whilst logged-in to my Facebook account. The screen-save below shows what is visible to members of the public, i.e. no comments
Postscript 14 April 2015: Further censorship with the removal of my comment in response to an inaccurate statement in the DV Connect web site. I simply cited the relevant ABS statistic, but I guess the reality that men face more violence than women was just too triggering.
On 11 September 2015 Di Mangan was quoted as saying that they couldn’t justify running the Mens Helpline on a 24 hour basis as so few calls were being received. Gee, I wonder why?
Fast forwarding now to January 2016 and along comes another advertorial for DV Connect, naturally with male victims & female perps air-brushed out of the picture.
This January 2016 article includes the following quote from the CEO of DV Connect:
“Mangan said abusive men were “emboldened” by the public murders that shook Queensland in 2015, noting that many of the calls received by DV Connect were from men warning that they wanted to harm their partners. Some of the men wanted help while others were calling to make a threat.”
In November 2017, the Courier-Mail published ‘DV Connect chief executive Diane Mangan axed from role amid dispute‘. I’d like to think this move was about improving efficiency & accountability, rather than just personalities, but have little faith in either of the parties involved.
The sort of gender discrimination practiced by DV Connect has been discontinued in one part of the United Kingdom as described in this November 2017 article by HEquel.
Postscript 3 May 2020: ‘Inside the Men’s Referral Service, a call centre dealing with Australia’s abusive men and domestic violence‘. Gender-biased fruit off the same tree?
Postscript 6 May 2020: This video concerns a UK example of gender-biased caller-screening
Postscript 6 March 2022: This form of anti-male gender-bigotry is now VIC government policy
“I’m proud to announce the Palaszczuk Government is providing additional funding of $2 million to DVConnect to keep up with the high demand” said Shannon Fentiman (3 August 2022).
Postscript 18 January 2023: Family violence perpetrator focused screening and risk assessment: identifying current practice and future opportunities. A Monash Uni study. According to this Tweet, the issue of screening women was also addressed, but I am yet to find any reference to this issue in the papers I’ve read (?)
Elsewhere in this blog you might also be interested in these posts: