Gender bias at the Australian Department of Social Services

On the 24 July 2014, I wrote to Mr Finn Pratt, Secretary, Department of Social Services as follows:

“Dear Finn

I came across the following report whilst searching your web site:

http://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/09_2013/literature_review_on_domestic_violence_perpetrators.pdf

On page two of that report it states that:
“Male perpetrators of domestic violence or sexual assault against men and female perpetrators of either offence against men have not been considered in this literature review. It is acknowledged that in practice the great majority of programs will be targeted towards men who commit domestic violence or sexual assault against women.”

Now I am aware that recognised studies of domestic violence tell us that between 1/3 and 1/2 of the victims of physical domestic violence are male. (I can provide links to these studies should you wish).

I find it quite extraordinary therefore that a decision was made to exclude all male victims and most female perpetrators from the report. The stated reason for doing so was disingenuous … I would respectfully suggest that existing programs target only male perpetrators due to the same gender bias that saw male victims excluded from this study … and the same bias that discourages male victims of domestic violence from coming forward.

Are you able to provide me with the following details please?

1. Which section within your Department commissioned the report, and who was responsible for the decision to exclude male victims of domestic violence?

2. Other than the reason mentioned in the report (quoted above), was there any further justification/rationale for making this decision?

3. What was the cost of commissioning this report?

Thank you kindly for your anticipated assistance with this matter”

Addendum: I received some interesting feedback concerning the Dept Social Services consultancy report referred to above from another researcher who made the following observations:

“… their [Urbis’s] definition of domestic violence is (emphasis mine):

For the purposes of this review, and the broader study concerning intervention programs, domestic violence is understood to be an abuse of power perpetrated primarily, but not only, by men against women, both in the context of a relationship, as well as after the relationship may have ended. It occurs when one partner – and in some cases, both partners – attempt physical, psychological, emotional, financial or social control over the other. Whilst domestic violence takes several forms, the most commonly recognised, and officially recorded, forms include physical and sexual violence, threats of violence and intimidation, emotional and social abuse, and economic deprivation. [page 1]

What is curious though is that there is no prevalence data for male victims of domestic violence (apart from sexual assault which includes all assaults, not only those occurring in relationships) [pages 4-7]. Why is the prevalence data for male victims entirely missing from a literature review that purportedly includes them in it’s definitions? …

A good source for prevalence data is the GENACIS, Gender, Alcohol and Culture: An International Study. The results from GENACIS have been used to inform the WHO Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, and if is good enough to inform the WHO estimates then it should be inform ours.

The Australian component of GENACIS is reported on in The Range and Magnitude of Alcohol’s Harm to Others published by the AER Centre for Alcohol Policy Research. And unsurprisingly the results appear to show gender symmetry.

Eight percent (n=158) of the population reported being a victim of physical partner aggression, while six percent (n=117) reported being a perpetrator of physical partner aggression. Similar proportions of men and women reported being a victim of this type of aggression (Table 7.5). While the prevalence was lower for being a perpetrator of physical aggression, there were no significant gender differences, and the proportion reporting being a perpetrator appeared higher among women. The severity of acts when a male was the perpetrator was slightly higher than when a female was, but the difference is not significant (Table 7.6).

Fewer than four percent of the population reported being both a victim and perpetrator of physical partner aggression, and no gender difference was evident. This equates to 34% of those who reported any partner physical aggression. [page 85]

So 34% of intimate partner violence is bidirectional (common couple violence), the rest is unidirectional with no significant differences in aggression by either gender.”

On 2 September 2014 I received the following response to my letter to Finn Pratt from Jill Farrelly, Branch Manager, Family Safety:

Thank you for your email of 24 July 2014 to Mr Finn Pratt, Secretary of the Department of Social Services, concerning the Literature Review on Domestic Violence Perpetrators (the literature review) on the Department’s website.  The Secretary has referred your email to me for reply.

I would like to assure you that the Australian Government is committed to ensuring the safety of all Australians. Domestic and family violence and sexual assault cannot be excused or justified under any circumstances.  All victims, regardless of their gender, need compassionate and highly responsive support, and perpetrators of violence must be held accountable for their violence.

Urbis was commissioned by the Department of Social Services to conduct the literature review to support actions to improve interventions for domestic violence and sexual assault perpetrators as part of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 (the National Plan). Funding for the commissioned contract, as reported on AusTender, was $219,964.

The literature review acknowledges that domestic violence and sexual assault is perpetrated by both men and women. However, as indicated in the literature review, Australian research such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey shows that most instances of domestic, sexual and partner violence are committed by men against women. For this reason, most domestic violence perpetrator intervention programmes are targeted at men who commit violence against women.

The literature review identified and examined the evidence base on the effectiveness of existing perpetrator intervention programmes. Therefore the literature review focused on examining programmes aimed at male perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The National Plan recognises that both men and women can be victims of domestic and family violence and sexual assault. Under the National Plan, the Commonwealth  has contributed funding for the expansion of counselling services for male victims of violence through Mensline.  This service is available to all victims of domestic violence and sexual assault on 1300 789 978 for the cost of a local call or at www.mensline.org.au.  Please note that calls made from mobile phones may incur additional costs.”

(I will draft a response to Ms Farrelly’s letter and post a copy here shortly)

While I was waiting for Finn’s response I spent some time within the DSS web site, beginning with their last available annual report. There I saw that DSS is the largest federal government department with 35, 838 staff of which 25,692 (72%) were female. The total budget for 2012-13 was $4.2 billion.

Next I had a look at a publication entitled ‘Home Safe Home – The link between domestic and family violence and women’s homelessness‘. Also written by consultants – four women from the University of South Australia. The report does not appear to acknowledge – even in passing – that some men are forced to flee their homes as a result of domestic violence (sometimes with their children). Now let’s get this straight, there are far more homeless men than women but it appears that they are not worth writing about. Why is that? Surely not anti-male sexism on the part of bureaucrats within DSS?

Now google on “link between domestic violence and mens homelessness australia” and see how many reports you can find on that subject. Guess.

Most recently I scanned the lengthy submission prepared by the Department of Social Services in relation to the 2014 Australian Government Inquiry into Domestic Violence

It would seem that the word ‘men’ only appeared three times in the Department’s submission, and only then in relation to perpetrators (1), potential perpetrators (1), and departmental recruitment (1). That’s right, in several hundred pages of text there was no explicit mention made of male victims (and presumably, of female perpetrators of violence). Nada. That that is the case is a disgrace to this agency, and to the Australian Government – and proof positive of the extent to which feminist ideology has permeated and tainted the federal public service.

So the Department of Social Service would have us believe that “the Australian Government is committed to ensuring the safety of all Australians“? As far as their work in relation to domestic violence is concerned, I remain far from convinced. One hopes, however, that they at least have the safety of the female half of the population well in hand.

 See also:

Start a conversation (2016) A set of publications produced by the respect.gov.au initiative. The one-sided nature of the respective rights/obligations of boys and girls set out in these documents almost defies belief. Essentially boys are obligated to respect women/girls, whilst women/girls are obligated to demand respect. Gender equality? Nothing close. This package is nothing more than a taxpayer-funded feminist wet dream.

Minister Andrew’s address at the Launch of Parliamentarians Against Family Violence (20 October 2014) Oh look, men cracked a mention in the last line of a 650 word speech. That’s 0.15% of the speech devoted to 50% of the population (or alternatively, devoted to between one third to two thirds of domestic violence victims depending on which credible study you consider). Why no statistics for female perpetration and male victimisation, Minister?

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