Moo Baulch, CEO of Domestic Violence NSW, on the DV themed Q&A episode following 'Hitting Home'. Photo: Q&A
It is a fact that the epidemic of domestic and family violence that has seen 78 women killed this year, mostly by their partners or family members, is a gendered issue which - while complex - stems largely from men's sense of entitlement and 'ownership' of their partners.
That violence exists in same-sex couples does not negate this fact. That women, too, are capable of committing violence against partners, children and other family members, does not negate this fact.
Experts, police and people working at the frontlines all agree that the particular type of violence we call 'domestic abuse' is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women. Just what this abuse looks like from various angles was compellingly captured by Sarah Ferguson and the team behind ABC's two-part documentary Hitting Home, which concluded last night.
Nevertheless, there are groups claiming to represent the interests of male victims who have made powerful use of a certain statistic in an effort to derail the conversation about the role played by gender and the intergenerational cycle of trauma wreaked by patriarchal family relationships.
That 'statistic' has become a mantra for MRAs - but despite being constantly debunked it continues to seep into mainstream discussions around domestic violence. The claim is that one in three domestic violence victims are male. The implication is that women are just as violent as men (although even if this statistic was correct it doesn't actually describe a situation of equal violence), that men are being discriminated against in a system that only helps women, and that women are getting too much sympathy and using it to take children away from their fathers.
Last night, on the special Q&A program (and season finale) following Hitting Home, this statistic was raised again by an audience member. Thankfully, this time, the panel being asked were all well informed in the field of domestic violence. And their unanimous debunking of the claim was powerful.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter got straight to the point: "I don't accept that statistic. I don't know where it's come from, and I'll be having a good look at it.
"This is, very sadly - and something we just have to be blunt and honest and open about or we'll never break the cycle - this a problem perpetrated by men against women ... almost exclusively."
NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Michael Fuller went further into the statistical reality in his state: "Around 25 per cent of men present as victims of DV assaults ... but of that 25 per cent, more than half of the offenders are still male.
"Any victim of crime deserves a service," he added, "but we can't lose sight of the fact that for more than half of the cohort of male victims the offenders are male themselves."
Domestic Violence NSW CEO Moo Baulch pointed out that male offenders are often skilled at pretending to be the victim in order to play the system, but said better data is needed to really understand what is going on.
And finally, Professor of Social Work Cathy Humphreys elaborated on the figures with an important observation from British crime data, which doesn't just count victims - it counts incidents, and therefore gives a much clearer picture of who is subject to ongoing abuse as opposed to one-off violence.
"You actually see high rates of reported one-off incidents," Humphreys said, noting that 9% of men and 14% of women had reported being victimised. "But actually when you look at who's reporting four or more incidents, 89 per cent were women."