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Black, blue and Chris Brown


Last Friday, the Australian Government advised American R&B artist Chris Brown that he would be denied a visa for his Australian tour.

Chris BrownIn 2009, Brown was convicted of assaulting girlfriend, fellow R&B star Rihanna, after punching her in the mouth, putting her in a headlock and threatening to kill her. The ban came off the back of a campaign by advocacy group GetUp, who objected to the celebration of a man with such a record of violence against women. 

It has stirred debate on a number of fronts. GetUp were criticised for focusing their anti-domestic violence, celebrity-targeted campaigns mostly on black entertainers. It has since retreated from its campaign, acknowledging the racial aspect.

And this week Brown, appealing the ban, argued that his mistakes from the past should not be held against him, but should serve as a lesson for others. 'I would be more than grateful to come to Australia to raise awareness on domestic violence,' he tweeted. 'I am not the pink elephant in the room anymore.'

Whatever we make of this, it is true that there plenty of other 'pink elephants in the room', that ought to be confronted as part of this conversation. Brown's mistakes, after all, are not just the domain of high-profile artists. They are prominently at issue in Australia at the current time, with one woman dying each week as a result of domestic violence, in most cases perpetrated by an intimate male partner.

Brown's advertised tour has placed domestic violence on the front pages. So has the Government's commitment of $100 million to combat and address the issue of domestic violence — a move in part prompted by the tragic story of Luke Batty, the murdered son of Australian of the Year Rosie Batty.

But is this enough? Not everyone is convinced.

Social commentator and Collective Shout women's advocate Melinda Tankard Reist worries that while $100 million dollars implies a commitment to ending domestic violence, it may not offset the cutbacks to service organisations that have been happening across the country.

'We know that women are turned away from shelters because of the demand,' she tells Eureka Street. 'I support the idea that a woman shouldn't have to flee, that she should be able to remain in her home. But, if she is in immediate danger, she may need to find somewhere very quickly.'  

CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria Fiona McCormack, writing for The Drum, argued that the announced $100 million package must be seen as a first step; that a dedicated funding stream as a partnership across states and territories was necessary. Currently domestic violence organisations are funded on an ad-hoc basis, which McCormack believes fails to recognise the prevalence of the issue.

'In Victoria, there have been 70,000 police attendances to family violence incidents in the last year,' she said. 'That's more than double what it was in 2009.'

Both McCormack and Tankard Reist say that shelter services find themselves overwhelmed by referrals. Other organisations working in this area cite a significant increase in reported assaults. This information needs to be considered carefully, and urgently.

Tankard Reist is committed, through Collective Shout, to creating understanding and awareness of domestic violence, particularly of the impact of violent sexualised advertising on men. 'There are so many examples, instances of where violence against women is glamourised, eroticised and normalised.

'You can find T-shirts that make a joke of rape. Advertising, marketing and pop culture markets taking advantage of girls. Children are being exposed to violent pornography for the first time on average at the age of 11. Young men are being conditioned to think it is okay when consent isn't given. It's not enough to objectify a woman. Advertisers will show her beaten and bruised.'

According to Tankard Reist, in the case of Brown, the government has obviously done its due diligence and shown he does not meet the visa requirements. 'It seems that in the light of the launch of their new funding and pressure on them, they considered carefully whether to allow him a visa. The UK and New Zealand also refused him,' she says.  

Domestic violence is an urgent problem, and while denying a high-profile musician with a violent history is a step in the right direction, the statistics around violence against women are not improving. On a federal level, it is not enough to throw money at the problem; we also need research, social policy and, most importantly, preventative education. Only then will this sorry problem become a thing of the past.

Beth DohertyBeth Doherty is a staff writer and editor at Jesuit Communications.

Topic tags: Beth Doherty, Chris Brown, violence against women, Rihanna, pornography, Melinda Tankard Reist



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Existing comments

Beth, The article is really excellent and the last paragraph should be sent to all schools, agencies dealing with families including sports, health and governmental agencies, religious groups etc. It is a strong comment making a strong message. Thank you, Paula Kelly

paula kelly | 02 October 2015  

Still desperately seeking allies and support for all innocent and vulnerable Australian women and their children who have and are experiencing domestic violence, systemic and judicial abuse and human rights violations overseas that continue to be ignored, condoned, colluded with, covered-up and kept secret! For further information please see: Submission # 148 “Merinda” to Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee -Domestic Violence Inquiry available at www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Finance_and_Public_Administration/Domestic_Violence/Submissions Submissions from Anonymous, Andrew Farren and Paul Barratt (Subsequent Submission) and James Smith to the Invitation to Comment on Consular Strategy 2014-2016 and subsequent report links at http://dfat.gov.au/about-us/our-services/consular-services/pages/consular-services.aspx Facebook Page: “Domestic Violence Despair” Contact Merinda at Email: merindasfr@live.com.au

Helen Smith | 02 October 2015  

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