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A return to reason on family violence

By Percival Blake - posted Thursday, 1 October 2015

In the period shortly after Luke Batty's death his mother spoke eloquently about the mental health issues of his father Greg Anderson, who went on to kill the son that he loved rather than lose access to him. In her own words

"He was just a tortured, unhappy man unwilling to deal with his mental health problems"

There is nothing unusual about people with serious mental illness not seeking or accepting help, it's the rule not the exception. That is why our laws give society the option of compelling those who represent a danger to themselves and others into psychiatric care.


All the signs that would have precipitated this for Greg Anderson were there, as they are for most perpetrators of serious family violence. There is an enormous body of research which clearly outlines the warning signals, risk factors and typical deterioration of mentally ill people towards violence and psychotic behaviour. There are also highly accurate 'instruments' by which such individuals can be assessed, which we routinely use to assess the likelihood of violent criminal reoffending in the Australian justice system.

Sadly, in the intervening period Rosie Batty has strayed off the path of reason and started supporting the very approach that failed to protect her son, culminating in her father's day release of a 'survey' that asserts that family violence is caused by men and women not doing an equal share of the washing up.

This deviation represents an adherence by Rosie to the Duluth Model, a theory which states that domestic violence is committed by men for the purpose of power and control over women, and is endorsed by a patriarchal society and gender roles leading men to have an enlarged sense of 'male entitlement'.

As an explanation for family violence it's fatally flawed, for a range of reasons far too long to go into in this article, and it has been proven to fail for over 40 years. Nonetheless this failed model has been maintained as the primary policy on domestic violence by a concerted political effort and indoctrination of students, professionals and the public at large, at the cost of thousands of lives.

So the Coroner's findings into Luke Batty's death are both a welcome return to common sense and a bitter disappointment. They are welcome because they clearly identify mental health as the primary cause of Luke Batty's preventable death, and recognise that the system failed to properly assess and act on the risk his father posed. It is disappointing because the Coroner states that Greg Anderson's actions "could not have been reasonably foreseen".

This is not true. His behaviours were reported to multiple agencies and any competent mental health practitioner could have predicted a high likelihood that this man was going to become increasingly violent. Had Anderson undergone a professional psychiatric assessment he would almost certainly have been placed into involuntary care, meaning that he would not have been free to murder his son.


So the question is - why wasn't he properly assessed?

Here, the real flaw in our family violence policy is revealed.

Anderson wasn't properly assessed because our system isn't built on a mental health understanding of family violence. It's built on the Duluth model, which focuses on trying to change the 'culture' and 'attitudes' that it claims are responsible for family violence. Luke batty wasn't killed by a patriarchal culture or gender stereotypical attitudes. Nor were any of the hundreds of other children that have been killed over the last few years, 52% of which were killed by their mother, according to the latest report from the Australian Institute of Criminology. Luke and these other children were killed by mentally ill people and a system that failed to recognise and respond to that illness. Any rationally minded person understands that mentally healthy people do not terrorise, abuse and murder their families.

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About the Author

Percival Blake is the nom de plume of a clinician.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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