My first job in this field was working for an agency that ran groups for men who were court ordered to attend treatment subsequent to domestic violence charges. It wasn’t as tough as it sounds, in part due to my enthusiasm for having a job I had a pretty unflappable attitude to it all, and in part due to the experienced staff around me at the time.
My boss, a very experienced (professionally and in the “school of hard knocks sense” of the word) taught me how to focus in on listening for projection and blame, and to relentlessly challenge it. And while the content of the course was important: assertiveness skills, understanding the role of tradition and culture in domestic violence, recognizing the control tactics for what they are; in the end it all came down to one thing: accountability.
Half the men there would claim there partners started it, that they were violent too and they never got charged. What they wouldn’t say unless challenged was what actually happened was his partner had scratched him because he was yelling in her face, and then he punched her so hard she got a black eye.
The other half would roll out ridiculous stories like (I’m not joking here) “I was just expressing myself with my hands and she walked in to my fist”; “I was trying to restrain her and she slipped and I accidentally landed on her with my knee.”
If it wasn’t so awful, it would’ve been laughable.
This is why accountability and self responsibility is the target in treating men who hit women, because overwhelmingly the majority of men who end up in programmes like this don’t have it. They blame their partners, blame their wives “emotionality”; blame their “relationship” even in the face of the overwhelming reality.
So why, many would ask, when “she started it” do the men get arrested? Because again, in the overwhelming majority of cases the difference between a scratch and a broken nose is recognized in the law. When men assault women, it’s really really dangerous. Whether you like it or not, we are bigger, stronger and more inclined (on average) to lash out when emotionally overwhelmed.
And let’s not even get started on the scale of the problem. Here’s just one stat that shocked me: :
“NZ Police recorded a family violence investigation on average every five and a half minutes in 2014. [and yet] 76% of family violence incidents are NOT reported to Police.” (Click here for the whole article)
So this is why so many people have reacted so strongly to his insensitive comments about McCaw’s punch in the face, but even more strongly to his attempts to defend himself in a subsequent Facebook post:
Now there are people claiming that they have been bullied via personal messages from this page, of other commenters bullying women on the page and of anti-Veitch comments being deleted and other rumours emerging of Veitch himself still allegedly exhibiting some pretty worrying behaviour about one year ago. (“He” in this post comment being Veitch).
And of course reading the content of the actual assaults that occurred, as they were made public in 2009 and re-circulated via social media in the last few days, makes for harrowing reading.
For me the key question then is: are these outbursts the actions of someone who has taken full accountability for their actions, and as a result understands the impact of his actions? He might, I’ve never met the guy, but nothing in his recent commentary demonstrates that. To describe his own struggle with having to “re-build my life and career and learn from what was a hideous relationship” doesn’t leave people feeling full of confidence that he’s really got it, now does it?
The reality, in my view is that as a public figure convicted of a fairly horrific assault, not only should you count yourself lucky to be working in a highly paid public role again, but you might want to consider being a little more thoughtful when you’re talking about violence, and have a nit more understanding when people call you out on your views.
In other words: be accountable for your actions.