We’re seven weeks into 2020 and eight women are dead. Eight women murdered at the hands of men who should have loved them. That domestic violence statistic should shock you. It should shock our politicians, our media and our nation into action. But it hasn’t.
Yesterday Rowan Baxter murdered Hannah Clarke and her three children Laianah, 6, Aaliyah, 4, and Trey, 3.
Baxter poured petrol on Hannah and her three children as they sat in a car on the streets of Brisbane. He then set it on fire. In full daylight. In view of neighbours. Hannah crawled out of the car alive, hosed down by onlookers, she made it to hospital, only to die hours later. She is the eighth woman to die from domestic violence this year. That we know of.
How many more will there be?
This senseless murder has shocked many of us, and the media headlines on this case have stirred a wave of anger.
No, he didn’t die in a car fire. He killed his wife and children. That’s a big difference.
I felt physically sick reading this. The article could only be described as glorifying him. There are pictures too, which I have hidden because he doesn’t deserve to be seen.
— Stephen (@TheAviator1992) February 19, 2020
Fox Sports later changed its headline.
The Australian forgot about Hannah and made special note of Rowan Baxter’s former NRL career.
NO! A man burned his children and his wife alive today. He took the gutless way out and stabbed himself outside the car. Hannah Baxter survived, knowing her children died in the fire and then later died from her injuries, agony knowing her children were dead, agony from her burns https://t.co/SkdjMui9Qp
— Nes (@HayescNes) February 19, 2020
This is seriously wrong
It doesn’t matter who you are, what sport you played or even what gender you are. Violence against your partner and your children is wrong. And we shouldn’t excuse it, or play it down. Ever.
Let’s compare those headlines above to the reporting of other crimes.
This headline was from the BBC after the murder of Curtis Cheng, a Sydney police officer.
Hannah Baxter died. Curtis Cheng was killed.
Cold-blooded killers, man ploughs his ute (note he is responsible in this sentence) and murder. Why couldn’t we say the same for Hannah and her beautiful children?
What happened to Hannah?
This murder has made every woman I know angry. It’s made loads of men angry too. It’s horrific. And sadly, it wasn’t a one-off incident.
Friends and family have told the media that Baxter “controlled every aspect” of Hannah’s life. He hacked her phone, he recorded her conversations and he left a huge welt on her arm after she challenged him over photos she saw in his car.
She tried to leave him. Detective Inspector Mark Thompson confirmed both Hannah Baxter and her estranged husband Rowan had been referred to support services in the lead-up to their deaths. A court had granted at least one domestic violence order relating to the couple.
It’s time to change the conversation
We need to talk about Australia’s problem with domestic violence.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that 2.2 million adults have been victims of physical and/or sexual violence from a partner. That’s both men and women.
Seventy-four Australian women and 27 children died at the hands of someone they loved in 2019.
In 2016 Australian police handled 264,028 Domestic Violence cases.
Whatever we have been doing, clearly isn’t working.
What can we do?
Steve Biddulph is the author of Raising Boys and a relationships expert. In a Facebook post regarding the murder of Hannah Clarke and her children, Biddulph says dishing out AVOs for domestic violence isn’t working. Men who perpetrate domestic violence need intervention and help, similar to the way terror suspects go through deradicalisation programs.
“Programs exist and have for years, such as MENDS in Queensland which surround newly separated men with confronting, practical, supportive, and clear-headed help from other men, to realise they were behaving in ways that drove women away, and that if they are to ever make real links with their children, they have to stabilise, start behaving safely, stop feeling sorry for themselves, and learn how to relate without control being at the core,” Biddulph writes.
“It has helped thousands of men over 20 years. There is more too: A significant number of these high-risk men have massive attachment disorders from infancy, and so mistake intimacy for ownership. and become frantically afraid when women act independently.
“Control and power arises from fear, and that has to be got to the bottom of. We provide parole officers for men after crimes, but nothing before. So its a nightmare for women and their extended families trying to escape the escalating behaviour the man himself is trapped in, trying to gain through intimidation the love they have driven away by being so controlling in the first place.
In his book The New Manhood, Biddulph details case where groups of male friends talked men back from “stupid and emotional crisis behaviour, and toxic thinking” using round the clock monitoring and methods for releasing the grief and despair that underlies their anger.
He suggests that Australia needs to train volunteer groups of men to work with their peers and that such groups should be properly organised under court direction.
In the UK this is done with deradicalization of young men. But how many massacres, tragedies, and just shattered lives of children and wives might we prevent. Almost half of marriages end and even that is often needless if men learned to be grown up and trusting and open-hearted. Male change is possible, but its individual and hard work, and not going to happen from platitudes.”
Hannah Clarke’s death should be a line in the sand. We should take domestic violence as seriously as we take cases of terrorism. Enough is enough.
FAMILY AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SUPPORT:
- 1800 Respect national helpline:
1800 737 732
- Women’s Crisis Line:
1800 811 811
- Men’s Referral Service:
1300 766 491
- Lifeline (24 hour crisis line):
- Relationships Australia:
1300 364 277
- NSW Domestic Violence Line:
1800 656 463
- Qld DV Connect Womensline:
1800 811 811
- Vic Safe Steps crisis response line:
1800 015 188
- ACT 24/7 Crisis Line:
(02) 6280 0900
- Tas Family Violence Counselling and Support Service:
1800 608 122
- SA Domestic Violence Crisis Line:
1800 800 098
- WA Women’s Domestic Violence 24h Helpline:
1800 007 339
- NT Domestic violence helpline:
1800 737 732
**In an emergency, call 000.