This book deserves more than five stars. It’s meticulously researched, even-handed, well-organised, straight-forward in style yet it doesn’t back off from the strong emotions that domestic abuse arouses. Jess Hill leads us logically through several topics: the “underground” women and children who suffer abuse; the psychology of abusers; the cultures aiding abuse; the disastrous decisions of the Family Court; policing and government policy; women who are violent; the programs that have worked. The sections on shame and patriarchy are particularly useful in answering the question: “Why do they do it?” After the recent murders of Hannah Clark and her children we had politicians standing up in parliament decrying their deaths. Our PM said how frustrating it is that this problem persists. If he’d read this book he would have known what governments can and should do. A few suggestions: fund refuges; overhaul the Family Court; institute one stop shops staffed by female police with attendant legal, financial and health staff; encourage communities to set up programs that have shown good results like the ones in Bourke NSW and Highpoint in the USA.
The concept of masculinity needs a radical overhaul. Time and again it has been shown that the traditional concept of the powerful male hurts many boys and men, taking away their tenderness. In the Nordic countries where male-female equality is more deeply entrenched, domestic abuse is rising, due no doubt, to a confusion about how to be male. The section on the rise and ubiquity of hardcore gonzo porn is also dispiriting. Who can tell what psychological harm it is doing? Do men really think that women appreciate being sexually tortured? There is much to cry about in this book, not least of all the fact that domestic abuse is rising and becoming more severe. Yet just as behaviour change around things like drink driving and smoking were successfully implemented by government campaigns it is possible for well targeted government action to lessen this societal scourge. What would we have then? People who are happier and safer, with a whole lot less cost to the communal purse. This is a brilliant book and should be required reading for every politician and policy maker.