BY ESTER HOLMES
Trigger warning- this story contains gruesome details of domestic violence offences. If you are triggered by any of these details please ensure you reach out to friends and family or loved ones, or contact 1800 RESPECT for support.
Isn’t it horrible that all you have to do is type into Google ‘DV NRL’ for a plethora of horrifically violent charges against intimate partners? I cannot fathom as the Aunty of little boys, the heroes they look up to are plastered all over our mainstream media for sexual assault, stalking and intimidation, threats of harm and serious violent offences.
Jarrod Hayne, former legend on the rugby league field, was sentenced to five years and nine months jail with a non-parole period of three years and eight months after biting off a woman’s clitoris. And then asked for fox sports to be in his room, demonstrating his absolute remorse *sigh*. Ex-NRL star Michael Lichaa has been charged with common assault, destroying or damaging property and stalk/intimate to cause fear of physical harm after his 26-year-old fiancée had to lock herself in a room to stay safe following an angry outburst. Off contract NRL player Jamil Hopoate was charged with assaulting his partner-three counts of common assault, two counts of stalking and intimidation and mid-range drink driving in Port Macquarie in late 2020. Myles Taueli was jailed for a second time for family violence related offences, deemed a danger to the community by a magistrate after he crashed into his sister's car and assaulted her in front of her young family.
And all the while our little boys are watching on for a role model, and our little girls are watching women victimised by these men. Is this the example we want to set for our next generation?
Furthermore, and I guess this is the ultimate question - is jail the answer? Too often in the media we see the carceral system used as a revolving door of false hope for victims and families. The reality is that jailing is failing. As a victim survivor who's convicted perpetrator received a jail sentence to be served in the community, I can confirm that the jail sentence did nothing to deter him or continue to try to make my life a living hell. Removing perpetrators from the families or partnerships and into short term prison stays, with no access to any kind of rehabilitative program or action accountability, and then placing them back into the family dynamic and back into our communities with no more skills than they walked in with, is placing women and children and families at higher risk, and not providing any platform for behaviour change, prevention strategies or culpability for perpetrators.
The prison system is not the solution for this incredibly complex social issue. An effective response to the pervasiveness of DFV in our communities, to address the impact it is having on victims, will require a multi-layered approach. This pandemic occurring in silence, behind closed doors, cannot be fixed by putting our heads in the sand and clapping when someone is sent to jail. We're better than that, our research is more sophisticated than that.
Addressing years of entitlement and privilege, removing gender-based violence, and empowering those experiencing violence and holding accountable those who feel the right to victimise another in any form will take comprehensive intervention solutions. One such example is the residential intensive program being run out of Perth, Breathing Space. Participants say the program is confronting and difficult at times, but the group of men being housed together for 12 weeks are constantly reminded throughout their rehabilitative program that they are there because of their behaviours and not the victims. Apparently having a mirror held to your actions and holding space for accountability is uncomfortable, who'd have thought?!
Is this the way of the future? Rosie Batty certainly thinks so, and if we want to see our communities safe and free from violence something must change.