(Image Credit: Getty Images)
One hot afternoon in February 2014, in the pleasant Victorian township of Tyabb, south-east of Melbourne, an 11-year-old boy called Luke Batty was playing in the nets after cricket practice with his father, Greg Anderson. Without warning, Anderson swung the bat and dealt the child a colossal blow to the back of his head, then crouched over him where he lay, and attacked him with a knife. The police shot Anderson and he died in hospital the following morning.
Rosie Batty, the young boy’s mother, came out her front gate to address the media. Her thick fair hair was tangled, her face stripped raw. “I want to tell everybody,” she said to camera, in a low, clear voice with a Midlands accent, “that family violence happens to everybody. No matter how nice your house is, how intelligent you are. It can happen to anyone, and everyone. This has been an 11-year battle. You do the best you can. You’re a victim, and you’re helpless. An intervention order doesn’t stop anything like this from happening.”
It wasn’t so much what she said as her demeanour that stopped people in their tracks. There was something splendid about her, in her quiet devastation. Everyone who saw her was moved, and fascinated. People talked about her with a kind of awe.
From Helen Garner’s essay in The Monthly.
Rosie Batty’s situation is not unique.
In Australia, the victims of domestic violence are mostly women and children – though men are certainly not immune from the scourge. It is estimated that one woman is murdered each week by a current or former – almost always male – partner. Child victims are approximately half that number – although the parental breakdown here is closer to 50:50.
I must declare my particular interest in this topic. I have never been the victim of domestic violence myself. However, I knew Julie Ramage (she was the mother of one of the students at my daughter’s school) – whose total control-freak of a husband killed her and escaped conviction for murder (manslaughter, instead) on the then-available ground of provocation. And the family of that appalling “father” who tossed his 4-year-old daughter off the Westgate Bridge back in 2009 lived in the very nice fairly exclusive leafy inner-eastern Melbourne suburb immediately south of mine.
The motivations for killing children are varied, but if I may be allowed a simplistic dichotomy, when it’s a woman killing her children – generally before committing, or attempting to commit, suicide – it seems to be the desire not to abandon those children (I do relate to that: at one stage of my life when I was seriously contemplating suicide, I couldn’t abandon my daughter – so I would have to kill her first. Then I realised that I’d have to eliminate all the other people who cared about her, and then all those who cared about those people, and then . . . ). For men – particularly those men who do not kill their partner – revenge – the ultimate power play – seems to be the primary motive.
Congratulations, Rosie Batty, on becoming Australian of the Year. You were in stellar company, but you were and are the absolute standout choice. All strength to your arm, and I hope the Victorian Government is sensible enough to involve you closely with the upcoming Royal Commission into Domestic Violence. This is a horrific problem humanity has ignored for far too long.
I will leave the last words to Rosie Batty:
“Sometimes,” she said, “it gets so quiet. And I think, what’s missing?” Her voice weakened and trembled. “I know what’s missing. What’s missing is Luke. Was he ever here?”