Culture

NSW Police Have Started A Controversial Discussion About Domestic Violence On Their Facebook Page

"He is the innocent victim. He is the one living in fear. Domestic violence does not discriminate."

This piece discusses domestic violence.

Yesterday morning, the NSW Police Facebook page published a post that was completely out of the ordinary. Though the majority of their social media content includes updates on specific crimes, pleas for information from the public, or content from recent media releases, first thing Monday morning they shared the following stock image and emotive statement to their 443,294 followers.

Here are the main thoughts so far.

This Is An Important Discussion That Australia Needs To Have

In the hours since the post’s publication, the page’s organisers have pinned the statement to the top of their feed, and it’s attracted more than 13,000 Likes and 1,400 comments. Of course, as a strong condemnation of violence, the post has won a lot of supporters.

“[This is the] first time I’ve seen something like this,” said one commenter. “1 in 5 victims being male, and how often do you see fundraisers or posts like this. So glad that the police posted this, very glad indeed,” said another.

Others are using the post as a forum to share personal stories about how the issue has affected them.

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For most, the police’s “zero tolerance” for any kind of domestic violence is the biggest takeaway. “I’m glad that the discrimination is stopping, it’s always been assumed that it’s just women but someone needs to stand up for the men as well,” one comment reads.

And, though the figure NSW Police quote is slightly different from theirs, the Australian advocacy group for male victims of domestic violence, ‘One In Three’, agrees: “[This is a] rare and long-overdue step of acknowledging male victims of intimate partner violence,” they wrote on their website. “We have heard hundreds of stories of male victims and their children being treated poorly by NSW Police over the past five years, so let’s hope this post isn’t just a PR exercise and that there is genuine cultural change on the ground.”

In fact, most contributions to the discussion are productive, with more than 3,000 users having now shared the post in an effort to give the issue optimum exposure. For many, this is a welcome move for an issue that has largely been framed through the lens of widespread female-focused campaigns, including ‘Violence Against Women: Australia Says No’.

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This Could Have Been Handled Better

But others are taking issue with the unwelcome responses this kind of message can incite online. CEO of Domestic Violence NSW Moo Baulch was one of the first to voice her frustration with the post, giving particular concern to the lack of comment moderation on social media.

“They’ve left more than 1,300 unmoderated sexist and offensive — really quite nasty — things on their Facebook that you wouldn’t want on you or your friend’s page … People are tagging their friends and boyfriend’s in there as a joke.”

Despite a PR report from NSW Police Media Manager Tim Archer previously stating “moderation is crucial and never ceases … we cannot afford for any of our social media platforms to carry offensive, prejudicial or defamatory comments,” many hostile comments have been left unmoderated.

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Ms Baulch also told us she was concerned about the message NSW Police are spreading, particularly in their use of the 1 in 5 statistic.

“NSW Police, as a key government organisation, have a responsibility to be quite nuanced in the way they describe domestic violence,” she said. “This is a conversation we need to have [but this is] quite an exclusive way of putting an argument across.”

Baulch argues the Facebook post doesn’t let people know where the stats come from and who the perpetrators are. “To use any kind of statistic is dangerous,” she said. “There are a large number of gay, bi and trans men out there who experience domestic violence that this really makes invisible.”

“It’s disrespectful to men who are victims of domestic violence and it’s disrespectful to women who are victims of domestic violence.”

Timing Is A Definite Problem

This post came just two days after the arrest of Leila Alavi‘s estranged husband, after she was found dead with a knife wound to the throat in a shopping centre carpark.

“Just last weekend, two Australian women were murdered,” Jenna Price wrote this morning for Daily Life“In the first 17 days of the new year, six women have been murdered in Australia — and in every single case, the person charged with murder knew the victim. In five out of six cases, the person charged with murder is a man. And this is the week that the NSW Police Force decided to use its Facebook page to post on men as victims of domestic violence.”

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In fact, in the 24 hours preceding the initial Facebook post, NSW Police issued three media releases about domestic assault, and in all cases the victim was female.

On Sunday night, a man was arrested in Eastlakes for allegedly kicking a 19-year-old woman in the face and thigh. He has since been charged with domestic common assault. Another man in Broken Hill was charged with assault, malicious danger, breaching an AVO, and being armed with an intent to commit an indictable offence after he allegedly poured petrol on his partner as she tried to flee their home.

On Monday morning, four and a half hours before the message was posted, a man was arrested for allegedly assaulting a 24-year-old woman in Cartwright. He has now been charged with two counts of assault and malicious damage, as well as breaching his bail and AVO.

Though this of course does not minimise the problem of domestic violence against men, it does pose the question as to why NSW Police (who have been approached for comment) chose that particular moment to raise the issue.

You can add your thoughts to the conversation now.

Update 21/01/2015:

It’s worth noting that the NSW Police Force posted a similar image about domestic violence earlier this month that received many critical comments for the fact a man was depicted as the aggressor. With their similarly emotive language, the two Facebook posts appear to be linked.

This information was brought to us by a reader. The NSW Police are yet to make comment.