‘Horrifying reality’ of State of Origin night for domestic violence victims

For thousands of Australians, the first game in this year’s State of Origin series is a catalyst for exhilaration, friendship and unbridled joy. In its shadow, however, lies a sad reality.

For countless women and children, tonight’s game between the Maroons and Blues at Sydney’s Accor Stadium is not a cause for celebration and camaraderie, but for hypervigilance and fear.

First responders will prepare. Helpline employees will wait for the phone to ring, with an increase in calls not only in the hours, but also in the following days.

The correlation between some major sporting events and gender-based violence is well documented. A 2018 study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR) found that domestic assault rates increased by 40.7% in the 12-hour window between 6pm and 6am on nights in the state from. In Victoria, the story is similar: data has shown that both the AFL Grand Final and the Melbourne Cup result in spikes in acts of partner abuse.

“This is a horrifying reality for too many Australian women and children,” Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon of Monash University told news.com.au.

While communities across the nation still mourn the alleged killings another four women, supporters have once again expressed their concerns ahead of tonight’s match.

They also asked what role sport has in making possible what Anthony Albanese has repeatedly called our “national crisis” – and what responsibility the codes have in denouncing it.

“It is precisely the violence of men that is increasing”

Sport is not the only cause of domestic and family violence. But the culture of excessive drinking and gambling and the normalization of on-field aggression that surrounds these major events AND part of the problem we desperately need to solve.

Research published by La Trobe University in 2022 found that the frequency and severity of violence went hand in hand with drunkenness and loss of income from gambling.

While none of these factors should lead to – or excuse – men’s violence against women, they can “increase the likelihood or severity” of it, Patty Kinnersly, CEO of Our Watch, told news.com.au .

“If we look closely, we see that it is precisely male violence that increases during major sporting events. So we know it’s not just alcohol that causes higher levels of violence,” Kinnersly said.

The factors that drive men’s violence against women – including the need for men to have power and control over women, rigid gender stereotypes and lack of respect for women – can be “amplified and worsened by harmful levels of alcohol consumption,” he explained.

“Because alcohol can weaken men’s empathy, care, concern and respect for those around them, particularly women,” Ms Kinnersly said.

“To stop men from using violence, we must address not only the amplifying factors like alcohol and gambling, but the culture that allows men’s violence against women to thrive.”

Last week, the Prime Minister acknowledged the link between alcohol and domestic violence at the request of independent Warringah MP Zali Steggall, who raised the 2018 BOSCAR State of Origin statistics during Question Time.

“Alcohol and gambling are known drivers of domestic violence and government violence prevention structures in Australia have been reluctant to address the multi-billion-dollar alcohol and gambling industries,” Steggall said to Mr. Albanese.

She then asked him: “When will your government take greater action to regulate these harmful industries to protect Australian women in this national crisis and encourage greater prevention strategies and sporting codes such as the NRL?”

In response, Mr. Albanese said he “completely accept(ed) the startling statistics that the member raised with me today about a spike (in domestic violence) that will occur when a major sporting event such as the State of origin”.

However, funding for frontline services, which will no doubt be inundated as a result of this spike, is sorely lacking.

“Domestic and family violence support services across Australia have been crying out for more funding after a horrific first half of the year,” Dr Fitz-Gibbon said.

“A spike in reports and calls for help requires additional resources to ensure calls do not go unanswered, (and) to ensure the availability of the necessary specialists to identify risks and undertake safety planning with victim-survivors.”

“Sports bodies are in a position of power”

Given the “clear link” between some sporting events and domestic violence, Dr Kirsty Forsdike, chair of the Violence Against Women Research Network at La Trobe University, told news.com.au, “so such as the fact that sport is rooted in our culture and culture. seen as a key place for the prevention of violence against women, obviously (the leagues) have a responsibility” to take a stand.

“I would like to know how much money the NRL, AFL and other major sports leagues have invested in frontline prevention and support services for fans’ partners and families,” Teach Us Consent founder Chanel Contos wrote in a piece of May for The Saturday newspaper.

“Why is it okay that one of the most dangerous nights in Australia to be a woman or child is the night of a sporting final?

“We have double demerit points for driving offenses on long weekends and public holidays due to a known correlation between drink-driving incidents and partying. What sanctions or double and enhanced security measures are implemented on nights when men gather en masse?

Sporting bodies and players, Kinnersly said, “are in a powerful position to challenge the attitudes and behaviors that lead to violence against women and to set the standard of acceptable behavior throughout our community.”

At elite level, most codes are looking to educate those within their sports – the NRL’s Voice Against Violence programme, led by Our Watch, is the same organization the AFL recently partnered with.

The NRL also implements the “Change the Story” framework in partnership with ANROWS and VicHealth, which includes a zero tolerance education program for young people transitioning into older adults. And in 2019, the league introduced a discretionary “no guilt, resign” rule for players accused of serious crimes and/or crimes involving women and children. According to this rule, players must abstain from matches until the issue is resolved.

Recent “symbolic gestures” – such as the minute’s silence observed during AFL round eight matches to honor victims of gender-based violence – “do not go far enough”, Dr Forsdike said.

“Much more needs to be done by sporting codes, particularly in response to players who have been convicted of domestic violence,” he added.

“Such responses should occur from the elite level down to the grassroots of the community where women experience violence at the hands of men.”

Dr Fitz-Gibbon agreed. While initiatives such as the AFL’s moment of silence are “important”, they “should extend to more than one engagement on any given game night”.

“Addressing the national crisis of violence against women is everyone’s responsibility,” she said, “and sporting codes and clubs have a truly vital role to play.”

Leave a Comment

URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL