INGRID DOULTON | Professor Of Women’s Studies | Contact
In his first fortnight of Prime Ministership, Malcolm Turnbull has called on all Australians to make a “cultural shift” and stop disrespecting women. Declaring that gender inequality lies at the heart of domestic violence, the PM announced $100 million in federal funding to help stop violence against women.
With over 60 Australians killed at the hands of their partners this year, some would say this is a belated way of a coalition government acknowledging a systemic problem. As a feminist, I would agree with this,
“Violence against women is one of the great shames of Australia. It is a national disgrace ” – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
What I don’t agree with, is the bullying of all men who have been accused of bashing their partners – Particularly the poor men who are yet to be found guilty.
As a keen supporter of all women’s rights, I can see the importance of the new package, which was signed off by his new cabinet earlier this week. I can see the importance of the funding to trial GPS trackers for perpetrators, special safe phones for victims and other measures – like CCTV cameras – to boost the security of women at home.
However, as a keen supporter of the Sydney Roosters, I can also see how the demonization of men that have been accused of domestic violence has ruined my favourite NRL team’s chances of a premiership this season.
Roosters winger, Shaun Kenny-Dowall is facing 11 charges, including assault causing actual bodily harm, common assault and stalking. They involve his former partner Jessica Peris, the daughter of Olympian-turned-senator Nova Peris.
What people fail to understand is that, above all else, Shaun Kenny-Dowall needs to be playing football… and playing football well. These charges have prevented him from doing so, missing out and two months due to concerns over his mental wellbeing amid the domestic violence allegations levelled against him, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Documents filed with the court reveal Kenny-Dowall allegedly assaulted Ms Peris on seven separate occasions at Coogee and Maroubra between October last year and June this year. He also allegedly destroyed her mobile phone, used his to menace or harass her in May and stalked or intimidated her in June.
Now, what we don’t know is whether Kenny-Dowall’s mental health issues came from his domestic violence charges, or whether his domestic violence charges as a result of mental health issues. What we do know, is while he was being questioned about both, his employers were going through a slump.
As a sports-loving Australian feminist, I think I can speak with authority on the line we need to draw.
Above all else, Kenny-Dowall is a footballer. You can call him whatever you want to call him after full-time, but don’t prevent him from playing football. These “alleged” domestic violence charges could have waited until the end of the season, in which case he would have probably been going to court with yet another premiership ring on his hand. But no, the PC-Police would not allow this, and the Roosters were knocked out last week.
I pity the man, his entire year comes down to a fifteen weeks of serious football, and the media and courts take that away from him.
Some would say that upon his return to football in early September, SKD proved that he is one of the greatest rugby league backs of the modern era, right up until their unfortunate loss to Brisbane last week. It was just too late to make up for his time away.
As Miranda Devine so aptly put it earlier this week, “Poverty is the cause of domestic violence, the desperate chaos of the underclass, played out in welfare dependency, mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, especially psychosis-inducing ice,”
Demonising rugby league players, and pouring taxpayer money into permanent meddling bureaucracies, will do nothing to alleviate domestic tragedy.
It just increases government’s role in our lives, and further disempowers vulnerable athletes like Shaun.
As a fierce supporter or gender equality, I feel any man who excels in his chosen field should be encouraged to do so. And not limited by misandry.
In short, Shaun Kenny-Dowall is an amazing athlete who is currently plagued by mental health issues. He is also a premiership-winning footballer… and his “alleged” domestic violence charges should not get in the way of this,
Professor Ingrid Doulton earned her PhD in women’s issues from the University of Sydney in 2012. She completed her undergraduate studies at La Trobe University in regional Victoria soon after completing high school. Immediately after, she began her Masters at The University of Canberra with her dissertation in women’s sport. She is chairwomen of the Women’s Literacy Foundation and a brand ambassador for Rexona. Prof. Doulton lives in Sydney’s upper north shore with her dog, Minichiello.