There is an emerging pattern unfurling in the comment section of domestic violence-related articles posted to Facebook. Men are rushing in droves to their gender’s defence, writes Emily Sakzewski.

 I once saw a tweet that said, “never read the comments of articles posted to Facebook”. Yes, I thought, I completely agree. No one should subject themselves to being caught up in the infuriating discussions had in the Facebook comment section. My advice? Avoid reading them at all costs. Unless, of course, it is your job.

 As a social media manager for a news organisation, it is your job to post news articles on Facebook and that role also involves monitoring the comments section to ensure that the conversation does not breach any of your employer’s guidelines. Generally this includes blocking trolls, deleting spam, and sometimes hiding comments that attack other users, or that are so obscene they are counterproductive to the discussion.

The scourge of domestic violence incidents continues to plague Australia. Every week, there seems to be a news story about a woman who has been assaulted, raped or killed by a man she knows.

For some reason, men seem to be the more vocal commentators on domestic violence articles posted to Facebook. While many are empathetic to the article, the first thing most men seem to take from the story is not that a woman has been brutally bashed by her ex-partner, or not that a women has been killed by her husband. The first thing they seem concerned about is how the news affects them as men. Comments along the lines of, “not all men are violent towards women” and “I’m sick of men being portrayed as a monster because I am a man” are the most common.

The defensive nature of the comments suggests that men feel like they are being attacked by domestic violence discussions. Instead of seeing the issue for what it is: that women are dying at the hands of men they know; the discussion becomes more centred on the men who refuse to acknowledge that their gender plays any role in producing the alarming statistics.

Their comments come despite the stark statistics that in some areas of Australia, women are 12 times more likely to be sexually abused in a domestic violence-related assault than men, and 4 times as likely to be a victim of domestic-violence related assault.

At least 66 women have died so far this year from domestic violence and last year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recorded 95 victims of family and domestic violence-related deaths.

A chart showing the numbers of domestic-violence related deaths in each state.

 

 So, with such obvious facts, why is the focus of the conversation constantly being diverted? From my perspective, all these types of comments do is pepper down the discussion and detract the focus from women. It is fundamentally counter-productive to the domestic violence discussion.

As well as being defensive, sometimes when there is a story about efforts to curb domestic violence, either by charity support or government pledges, men can appear to feel left out. A recent article about the Federal Government’s pledge of $100 million to curbing domestic violence attracted a barrage of comments, not just on Facebook, but on the article itself. Again, men seemed to be the more vocal participants in the discussion. The attitude of most, from what I could gage, is that they felt left out. Comments tended along the lines of “men are victims too”. There is some merit to this, as women can sometimes be the perpetrators of domestic violence offences. But common sense has to play a part here. On average, men are physically larger and stronger than women and a punch swung by a man will hit a woman considerably harder than a woman’s punch on a man. And honestly, the research speaks for itself.

From my experience, women commenting on the articles are often met with replies from men arguing their case. Often, in order to not offend these men, women begin to backpedal on their stances. Subsequent female commentators seem to feel the need to water down their discussion and use precursors like, “I think anyone can be the victim of DV but…”. It is as if they have to be careful of men’s feelings in a discussion about their own gender’s safety. Why should a man feel personally attacked over an article reporting the death of a woman at the hands of her spouse? Why should a woman, who is statistically, considerably more vulnerable to DV, have to construct her comments so as not to offend these men who are less likely to be a victim?

My advice to all Australians who read domestic violence-related news articles is — think before you comment. A productive discussion about domestic violence requires looking at the incident and questioning why, that in today’s modern and democratic society do Australian men and women have warped attitudes towards gender equality in relationships. Why do some people accept the notion that men are more naturally dominating over women? Why so the majority of young Australians think that women often say no when they mean yes. Why do half of young people believe that it is acceptable to some degree to track their partner by electronic means without her consent? Instead of trying to deflect blame, place blame or please other without comments, domestic violence discussions should be about why, in 2015, Australian men and women are considered ‘equal’, but that these attitudes still exist.