Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Joe Hildebrand’s victim blaming made me furious

Before I start, I want to warn you. As I write this I am triggered. I am angry, I am shaking, I feel sick and I want to cry and hide. So there will be raw emotion, there will be swearing and it’s quite possible that this post will in turn have content that upsets or triggers you. Please take care.

So, I just watched a video of a segment on Australian TV featuring Joe Hildebrand (@Joe_hildebrand) and I’m furious. So, rather than you watching the video let me explain what it is. Victoria in Australia is introducing new legislation that allows for the prosecution of someone who doesn’t report abuse of a child. In the video, the onus is put particularly on sexual abuse. A number of charities and support groups have come forward to say that this new law will allow for the prosecution of women who fail to report abusive partners’ abuse of their children. The penalty for this “crime” is up to three years in jail.

The segment begins with a panel discussion about the new law and the consequences to DVA victims. And, for me, it all goes horribly wrong when the only man on the panel Joe Hildebrand starts speaking. From the very beginning he victim blames and mansplains. It is clear he has no understanding of DVA or the impact on women, but he doesn’t let that impede his opinion. I personally lost it when he started saying “you HAVE to get out” of an abusive relationship and “ANYTHING is better” than not leaving. The ignorance of those two statements is unbelievable.

Let’s start with “you have to get out” – my question to you Joe is HOW?!
How do women get out?
Where do they go?
Who will keep them safe when their abuser comes looking for them?
Who will provide them with housing?
Who will provide them with money for food etc?
Who will protect them when they need to leave the house?
Who will walk the streets with them when they take their children to school?
Or any one of the other situations in which a woman leaving abuse would be at risk?

The panel’s focus on the financial consequences of leaving ignores the VERY real threat to the physical safety of women who leave. Leaving is the biggest risk factor for being murdered by an abuser. Abusers stalk their victims when they leave. Women are made to feel completely unsafe. They are in a catch 22 situation. They are living in terror when they stay, but leaving doesn’t alleviate that terror; it increases it. At least if they stay, they can feel like they have some control. At least they aren’t provoking him. Well, that’s what you tell yourself. I speak as a survivor. Leaving is near impossible. And when I did leave, I was stalked. I had to move to another town to get away from him, and when I returned to my home town he started stalking me again. It was a terrifying time and years later I am still filled with fear at the thought of seeing him on the street. That’s the power of an abuser; someone who controls your life so completely and instils such fear, that fear doesn’t just disappear when you walk out of the door.

Women don’t need people to tell them that they “have to” leave an abusive relationship. They need practical help and support in doing so. They need places where they can feel safe and a criminal justice system that they can rely on to protect them. They need financial support, so that they can provide for themselves and their children. They need emotional support to deal with the psychological aftermath of surviving abuse. They need help with childcare. They need HELP! So please, Joe can you fuck right off with your victim blaming attitude and present some practical solutions to “empower” women to leave?!

This leads into the “ANYTHING is better” than staying. Joe, your privilege is showing. You have no idea what it is like to live through an abusive relationship. No idea the fear. No idea the erasure of your own mind. No idea of the control an abuser has. Or the coping mechanisms you set up. Staying FEELS safer. Because you feel “in control”. You feel like if you keep him happy the abuse won’t happen. You tell yourself that if you’re better it will stop. But if you leave, nothing you do will be enough to prevent his anger. Nothing you do will alleviate what you have done in leaving. It is the ultimate crime. It is unforgivable. You believe these things because they are what the abuser has drummed into you from day one. Leaving is not an option.

And, can I just say Joe, what about focussing on the abuser? Why not tell him he HAS to stop? Why not focus on his behaviour here? Stop telling women that they are responsible for leaving, when in truth it’s the fucking men who need to stop abusing us!

The other thing about this segment that REALLY pissed me off is the presentation of the stereotype of the “complicit mother”. This idea that there are women who regularly “allow” their children to be abused (often sexually); for reasons such as the mother’s self-interest (often in this trope it’s so the mother can avoid sex, the child is supposed to act as a surrogate for the mother’s “sexual duty”). THIS TROPE IS BOLLOCKS!! There are not a plethora of women regularly sacrificing their children to sexually abusive men. What there is, are a plethora of abusive men who think it is their right to have sex with whomever they chose, including their children. These men are abusive and controlling and the mothers involved either don’t know about the abuse, or are being abused themselves. So, again, can we stop focussing on the innocent mothers and focus on the fucking perpetrator?!

After the panel discussion survivor Rosie Batty appeared by video link. I have so much respect for this woman. I have no idea how she held it together as well as she did. I would have been screaming and swearing at Joe at this point. But Rosie didn’t. Her anger was palpable and she was obviously crying and it was painful to watch and hear her story. But rather than take the opportunity to learn something about the reality of DVA Joe decided to mansplain at Rosie about the new law and his “understanding” of how it would work. Honestly, at that point I was having violent thoughts. I thought Rosie did an excellent job under very difficult circumstances. I even felt that the other women on the panel were patronising in their “respect” for Rosie’s “grace” as a survivor.

Basically, the whole segment was victim blaming, ignorant bullshit. Yet again the focus is put on the women to change the situation and no-one named the problem as male violence. When are people going to wake up and start holding the fucking abusive MEN responsible?!

For those women reading this who are in abusive relationships and want to get out: It is possible. You can be safe again. I did it and I’m here, surviving. EVB has a “get support” page, take a look and contact one of the organisations who can help.

And for those in abusive relationships in general: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! Nothing he does is your fault. You are not to blame for any of it.

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