Comment: Refusing to think about rape and violence won't make it go away

When any article or report on male violence surfaces in the media, it is countered by a litany of predictable male retorts.

All too often, public discussions about rape and violence are greeted with a litany of male retorts. This isn't about assigning blame - so listen up, writes Craig Hildebrand-Burke.

In a week already full to the brim with depressing news, Simon Gittany was found guilty for the murder of his fiancée Lisa Harnum. Not long after, St Kilda footballers were allegedly attempting to raise funds for Stephen Milne’s upcoming rape trial, seeking support from prominent sponsors and supporters. Following that, Charles Saatchi defended his abuse of Nigella Lawson as merely a ‘playful tiff’ to ‘make her focus’ amidst allegations of drug addiction.

Last week was also the 10th anniversary of White Ribbon Day in Australia, which begins a period of activism to stop violence against women, culminating on December 10th with Human Rights Day.

It’s disturbing to see this anniversary greeted not with encouraging reports of widespread activism and positive change, but with ongoing reports of male violence toward women. In a society where men are statistically the main perpetrators of violence against all genders, we need to accept some hard truths. The problem is whenever we try to accept anything, a raft of excuses and counter attacks arrive: violence is caused by monsters not men, the statistics are wrong, men suffer violence as well.

We, as men, seem to struggle to accept the truth about ourselves.

A strange dichotomy exists. On one hand we deplore violence. We distance ourselves from violent actions by demonising the perpetrator. We look for excuses to explain away how they might be men. Simon Gittany has now become a convicted drug dealer, and had we known this from the beginning we might’ve been able to do something. We seek comfort in the fact that Adrian Bayley had a history of sexual violence.

But then on the other hand we condone violence, we accept it as part of our behaviour. It becomes an inevitability. We retrospectively view Saatchi’s choke hold on Lawson as understandable, almost logical - who else among us wouldn’t be driven to frustrated violence when faced with an alleged drug abuser? We look for opportunities to pat Milne on the back for his career, and call him a good guy for having a beer after a local cricket game. We lament at how difficult it is for footballers to withstand the pressures of fame and the grasping attention of women, who are denigrated as ‘footy sluts’. These poor men. What else were they supposed to do?

This is ludicrous. Those that excuse actions like Saatchi’s and blame victims such as Gittany’s fiancée for not seeing him as a monster earlier are allowing our violent culture to continue. The more we justify violent acts, the more we excuse it.

Assault, sexual assault, homicide, kidnapping – in every single case men are more likely to be the perpetrator than women. Men are more prone to attack, to invade, to wage war and go on homicidal rampages. This is not a myth, this is fact.

However, when any article or commentator or report on male violence is issued illustrating these facts, they are countered by a litany of retorts, of voices – male voices - claiming that it is a feminist agenda, that these are unfounded accusations, and that we are tarnishing all men with the same brush by emasculating men from their birthright.

Are we so insecure about our masculinity?

This chorus of dissent that greets any factual discussion of male violence has to stop. It has to move past the anonymous commenters, the aggrieved and aggravated nonsense that threatens to drown out any positive approach society can take toward a societal issue. There are those who claim there isn’t a rape culture in Australia because ‘women here give it up so easily.’ Others still who claim the patriarchal foundations of our society is just a theory, and one day feminists will take over the world having made men the enemy.

Factual reports of violence are greeted by angry words of violence. As men we’ve become defensive, afraid that if we accept an ordinary man could commit horrific violence then we will lose any sense of control over our own identities.

This is not about fault. This is not about blame. This is about the facts of violence. We need to accept where it comes from, we need to accept that it’s a problem. We need to accept that we have a choice in our behaviour, that we are in control of our actions. That we need not live up to some misguided expectation of masculinity. We need to accept that we are all men, and we define masculinity by our words and deeds.

At the moment, we’re doing a poor job of it.

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