Family violence has, in recent years, been subjected to a very short sighted restricted analysis that is based on stereotypes of victims and abusers. Typically, the "victim" is depicted as a timid, oppressed female and the abuser is portrayed as a brutish, aggressive male that often assaults or even murders children. But such gender stereotypes are dangerous, and leave groups of people suffering and vulnerable because they do not fit the pigeon hole prescriptions that dominate family violence discourse and support organisations in our country.
As it should be the homicide of children is considered to be a detestable crime in our community where they are seen as being very vulnerable and especially susceptible to abduction, physical and sexual assault and murder.
Maternal filicide, defined as child murder by mothers, is a problem that transcends national boundaries. Mothers who kill their children often use the defence of depression or insanity, but are all mothers who kill their children insane? The short answer is “No,” and some courts are beginning to recognise that fact as the following transcribed media accounts of recent criminal proceedings reveal:
“Donna Fitchett called the murder of her two boys her 'greatest act of love', but in sentencing late last year Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Curtain told her it was her 'greatest act of betrayal'.
“Fitchett drugged, smothered and strangled Thomas Fitchett, 11, and his brother Matthew, 9, at their Balwyn home in September 2005. Justice Curtain sentenced Fitchett to 27 years in jail, with a non-parole period of 18 years.“...
“Her defence argued she was mentally diminished at the time of the killings and thought what she was doing was right. But Justice Curtain rejected that argument because Fitchett had written a note detailing the crime.“ (ABC News Tuesday, May 18, 2010).
“A 43-year-old Brisbane woman, who could not be identified, was found guilty after a trial in the Supreme Court in Brisbane earlier last year of murdering her six-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter at their home at Sandstone Point, near Bribie Island. She was also found guilty of the attempted murder of her 16-year-old son, and was sentenced to life in jail.“
“The mother gave the children crushed sleeping tablets before putting them in the back seat of the car, attaching a garden hose to the exhaust, and switching on the ignition. The bodies of the children, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning, were found on November 22, 2002.”
“During the trial, the Brisbane court was told the mother decided to kill herself and the children as an act of revenge towards her ex-husband. She had been angry, the court was told, after being issued with a Family Court order stating they would spend Christmas Day with their dad.”
“The Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed her challenge of the murder conviction because the woman had not proved she was unable to control her actions.“
("Mum who gassed children loses appeal", by Christine Flatley, The Australian, December 2010).
It has been said that the catalyst for the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2010 was the tragic 2009 death of little Darcey Freeman, at the hands of her father. According to critics of current family law favouring shared parenting including Debbie Kirkwood from the Domestic Violence Resource Centre fathers pose a risk to their children and the selected use of instances where fathers have harmed their children strongly suggests a blinkered prejudice. (see, "Men's Murderous Revenge", Debbie Kirkwood, SMH March 31 2011).
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