A Most Violent Year

Six months ago, I wrote of a harrowing case involving a young Irish woman by the name of Emma Murphy, who recounted her abuse at the hands of her boyfriend in a YouTube video that quickly went viral. At the time I wrote the piece, I hoped that the widespread coverage of the Murphy story would finally mark a turning point in the international fight against domestic violence, that maybe, just maybe, some men would think twice before they hit or hurt their partners.

Of course, that would require some men to think at all. That would require some men to be civilized. That would require some men to be real men…and as a conscience-shocking case out of suburban Sydney, Australia, proves, some men apparently just don’t have what it takes:

[New South Wales] Police officers have been accused of failing to properly investigate a case of domestic violence after a 19-year-old woman was allegedly left beaten and bloodied by her boyfriend on Saturday.

Ashlee Savins was allegedly punched twice in her face and once on the side of her head by her partner…Ms Savins suffered a broken nose and chipped front tooth as a result of the alleged assault.

“I was bleeding everywhere,” she said.

“I went into my housemate’s room and told her what happened and we called the police.”

Her housemate, Ellie Sutton, was horrified by the injuries.

“She was covered in blood,” Ms Sutton said. “Her front tooth looked like it had been knocked out and she was crying uncontrollably.”

The two women said the police who responded to their 000 call were very supportive and interviewed Ms Savins from her bed at Nepean Hospital.

But when they followed up the call in the morning, Ms Savins was told that the case would be her word against [her boyfriend’s] and that they could not pursue the matter further.

[Savins’s boyfriend] allegedly told the police that his girlfriend’s injuries were the result of her falling on her face.

“I called the station and they [the police officer] said ‘Sorry, we can’t press charges without substantial evidence.’ I got very upset,” Ms Savins said.

She said she had also given police a medical report from her dentist indicating her injuries could not have been the result of a fall.

It is understood [New South Wales] Police are investigating how the incident was initially handled.

This is a horrifying story. Savins was, in essence, brutalized twice–the second time by law enforcement officials who apparently didn’t think a woman almost being beaten to death was that big of a deal:

Ms Savins told the police she had several [text] messages from [her boyfriend] in which he begged her not to tell anyone what he had done, and blamed her for not letting him “vent”…

“The police still said nothing could be done. They said I could submit [the messages] as evidence and they’d look at them but can’t guarantee anything further will be done,” Ms Savins said.

Her housemate, Ms. Sutton, said she was so incensed by the lack of action that she posted an angry message on a user-generated Facebook page for St Marys Local Area Command, accompanied by confronting images of Ms Savins’ bloodied face.

“My housemate was assaulted on Friday night by her boyfriend resulting in a broken nose and chipped front teeth. Despite calling you the night of the attack, making statements and the medical reports on top of his messages admitting his guilt she has been told nothing can be done because nobody witnessed it,” she wrote.

“Great job guys!! This is why women are failing to report and even dying due to domestic violence.”

Thank God for the proliferation of social media, which has allowed concerned citizens to document both domestic violence and police brutality. Imagine if this had happened just ten years ago; we likely would have never heard about this infuriating incident.

Now think about all the women–all the mothers, the daughters, the sisters, the wives–who didn’t live to see Christmas yesterday because they were murdered by a brutal boyfriend or hate-filled husband. Think about all the women who will be beaten or killed today by violent and vicious partners. Think about all the women who will be dead from domestic violence before you finish this paragraph.

This madness has got to stop. Violence against women is terrorism, period, and those who commit such acts of violence ought to be prosecuted as terrorists. Maybe that’s the only way to compel men to keep their damn hands off women.

If you think about it, the War on Women is World War III–and the battlefields and casualties are everywhere. Tonight, women across the world will go home and leave that home in body bags–and tomorrow, it will be the same.

This madness has got to stop. We need an international ramping up of legal punishment against those who commit acts of domestic violence. The world has to say that this is wrong–because so far, men don’t seem to be getting that message.

In addition, there should be zero tolerance for law enforcement officials blithely dismissing women who come forward with evidence of domestic assault. As Australian writer Clementine Ford observes:

Women have long been expected to absorb the brunt of men’s anger in exchange for preserving their reputations, and this pressure often comes from a circle of people far beyond the sole perpetrator.

That leads us to the attitude of the St Mary’s police officers with whom Ashlee first spoke.

It’s disturbing indeed to think that police stations around the country might be taking this kind of dismissive attitude with victims of domestic and family violence because – why? Because the problem is too big? Because it’s just another domestic and who can say what happened to ‘provoke’ it? Because we just can’t be bothered?

It seems unlikely that the one person this would happen to is the same that would make a very visible complaint about it on a social media platform. So how many other women and children are being kept in dangerous, abusive situations because the people they have been taught to trust as law enforcers have failed to protect them from the people they’ve been encouraged to trust with a relationship?

This madness has got to stop–but when will it stop? When do we say “enough”? When will be demand that every country become more aggressive in prosecuting domestic violence, in treating domestic abusers as the terrorists they are? Will we ever do it? And what will that say about us if we don’t?

UPDATE: More from the Young Turks, Sarah-Jane Collins and Daily Life.

SECOND UPDATE: From Jenna Price.

Donate Now

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.