Monday, February 17, 2014

Dad's murder of son sends "ripple of terror" through domestic violence victims (Australia)

Another good piece on the murder of Luke Batty by his father, GREG ANDERSON.

Luke Batty's murder sends 'ripple of terror' through domestic violence victims

Date February 14, 2014

Mex Cooper
Online reporter for The Age

The cold-blooded murder of Luke Batty will send ripples of fear through the community and should be a turning point in the battle against family violence, experts say.

University of Melbourne social work professor Cathy Humphreys said the 11-year-old's killing in the small town of Tyabb on the Mornington Peninsula at the hands of his father on Wednesday night had brought the often hidden world of family violence into the public spotlight.

"In all sorts of ways a death like this reverberates throughout the whole community, especially for women with experience of family violence and experience of threats to kill or harm her or her children," she said.

"There will be a ripple effect of terror through women and children close to these issues."

Professor Humphreys said the community outcry following Luke's death and expressions of support for those mourning him were important steps in healing and confronting the reality of family violence.

"I think having community outcry and reaction and to name it for what it is – the murder of a child – is important," she said.

Professor Humphreys said often excuses relating to custody access were wrongly made for violent fathers.

She said Luke's mother seemed to have been striving to find a balance between allowing her son to see his father and ensuring the boy's safety, a predicament many women faced.

"They are often very fearful of threats being made to both themselves and their children," she said.

Rosie Batty said on Thursday that she felt Luke was safe with his father and found it difficult to believe he had carried out what police believe was a premeditated murder.

Luke's father was allowed to see his son at Bunguyan Reserve sports oval, where the keen young cricketer trained.

Luke had asked his mother if he could spend just a few more minutes playing cricket with his dad after Wednesday-night practice at the reserve when he was killed in front of shocked witnesses, including his teammates and mother.

Police then shot Luke's 54-year-old father, who later died in hospital.

Domestic Violence Victoria chief executive officer Fiona McCormack said the appalling loss of life should be a catalyst for the community to target family violence and called on the government to act.

She said in 2013 there had been 29 deaths related to family violence in Victoria, up from 15 in 2012, and that family violence had been a factor in 80 per cent of child deaths known to child protection services last year, up from 62 per cent in 2010.

Ms McCormack said the state government needed to provide funding to improve communication between agencies that come into contact with perpetrators, including courts, child protection workers, police, women's services, men's services, Corrections Victoria and the Parole Board.

"The evidence shows that women and children are at great risk when women leave violent relationships and there are currently agencies that come into contact with men who are a risk to their children and their partners and their broader community who aren't necessarily sharing that information," Ms McCormack said.

Ms McCormack said victims of family violence usually did everything in their power to stop the violence from continuing and were often not supported, or were even blamed, for what happened to them.

She said it was time for the problem to be seen as the responsibility of the whole community so no man could believe that his partner or children were his possessions.

"It can appear that it just came out of the blue but research shows that there are generally warning signs," Ms McCormack said.

"People who came into contact with perpetrators did not necessarily know what to do, or who to tell, or might not have recognised the significance of what they're witnessing."

Ms McCormack said the Tyabb tragedy would make many women fearful but urged anyone experiencing family violence to seek help and support.

Professor Humphreys said it was important to encourage women to seek intervention orders but acknowledged they could not offer complete protection.

"It's helpful to have them in place but when someone's intent on murder people can feel very powerless," she said.

Intervention orders have risen 42 per cent in the past five years in Victoria.

Family violence crime figures against the person have grown nearly 400 per cent in the past decade as Victoria Police has adopted a more aggressive stance against crimes that were once ignored by society.

Ms McCormack said the police's approach was the best it had ever been but that it was all too common for women who left violent relationships to continue to be harassed and stalked, often for years.

"It's simply not good enough," she said.