Adele, Adelle, Adelle Collins, domestic violence, family violence, Gabba, Howard League for Penal Reform, intimate partner violence, King, Lover, Magician, Moore and Gillette, Warrior, White Ribbon Day
Adele’s coming to Australia! I have a very personal story about the singer. In February 2015 I was woken in the middle of the night by a text from a friend overseas saying something like ‘our beautiful Adelle has been murdered.’ Straight away I had that sinking feeling – my mind running – it was probably a celebrity stalker and here was another wonderful musical talent wrenched from us too soon. Desperate for details I reached for my ipad, similarly easily accessible from my bed, and did a quick Google search. Nothing. I texted my friend back who, realising I was a bit non compos mentis at 2.00 am, told me it was someone who worked for me…well not just someone but the PA in my previous job. I had jumped to the wrong conclusion at that ungodly hour. The news then went from tragic to absolutely dreadful in that one moment of clarification.
I just bought Adele tickets this week for her concert at the Gabba and this Friday coincidentally happens to be White Ribbon Day. It’s strange how life throws up these confluences of otherwise disconnected events. Every time I see Adele on TV I recall that moment in bed when relief turned to anguish. Adelle like the singer, only spelt differently, was indeed beautiful in person and inside. She was great at her job and had this kind of Celtic sunny disposition (her parents were Irish) that meant that people who came into contact with her felt all the better for it. She really did have that positive mindset that many of us aspire to but few achieve with the sort of effortless grace of Adelle. She had bumps along the way in the all too short a path that was her life but she never burdened you with these, instead choosing to concentrate on the positives, especially her two children (a boy and girl) and spending time with family and friends. She loved to socialise and party and most of all dance.
Adelle was a victim of what is becoming increasingly known as intimate partner violence. Her’s though proved to be fatal. Stabbed many times, her ex-partner chose to bring this precious life, this mother of two beautiful children, to an abrupt and very violent end. To try and work out why a man would do such a thing a despicable thing is at once inexplicable, a waste of time and an absolute necessity.
Family, domestic or intimate partner violence is a scourge and shames us as a society especially as men who overwhelmingly are the main perpetrators (although men can be susceptible too). So far this year 68 women have died as a result of domestic violence. As a man I always felt helpless to change these statistics. More recently, particularly since my return from India, I feel that there is quite a lot we can do that will assist. Gandhi said ‘As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.’ That is to say great things can come from small changes. So it’s the little things I do that can make a dent into the scourge that is domestic violence; be it this blog, keeping Adelle’s memory alive each year, remembering her in an open public form where predominately men attend and becoming a male champion of change.
I talk to my 20 year old son about such issues. For all too many of us the shame that is violence against women elicits the same visceral, pre frontal cortex responses from us that perhaps is the underlying cause of the violence in the first place. ‘Lock them up and throw away the key’ is the often heard refrain. On reflection I don’t think this is helpful. Education and prevention are much better than post event punishment. I don’t think we reduce violence rates through oaths or punitive sentences. Exhortations through television advertising imploring us to not hit women to me misses the mark. Those who are not pre-disposed to violence against women can take an empty pledge and the rates do not decrease. Those who do hit their women or children are unlikely to take an oath or change behaviour merely because they saw an advertisement asking them to stop.
What possesses a man to check his partner’s facebook page, email, text messages and call logs every day? What possesses a man to tell his wife what to wear and who she can see? I don’t know and I’m not sure many people do. That’s my point. We need research and understanding around the issues of violence against women to try and address how to solve it. As the Howard League for Penal Reform would tell you, harsh sentencing for crimes does not reduce crime rates. Things do not improve by removing ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat. The need for a more mindful approach has never been more pressing. I suspect funding applications to the Australian Research Council in this area don’t get much luck as this is a topic our conservative leaning social policy shies away from. As the world gets more socially conservative we are unlikely to see much in the way of real research in this space. The leader of the free world, for example, has set the bar intolerably low in terms of how men should treat women.
It’s true that many young men have lost their way and the creation of a ‘little man with an axe’ inside may well be the result of this. While women are being scaffolded now through school and careers to break the ‘glass ceiling’ (nothing wrong with that), it would appear there is an increasingly large cohort of young men who could do with similar assistance. The school curriculum in Australia is feminised and delivered in the main by women. Role models for young men, outside of ethically dubious sportsmen, are few and far between. Genetically embedded with the warrior mindset, young men need assistance in how to nurture and grow the noble warrior mindset. Perhaps men need to work on the four primary archetypes of King, Warrior, Magician and Lover to rediscover the true male worth? The Moore and Gillette book is a good place to start. But who is teaching this stuff and who is researching its real value? Not very many. So we juice our young men up through mindless de-sensitising video games and provide no outlet for expression in a group not overly-endowed with communication skills. And we are shocked and shamed when domestic violence occurs! I’m not excusing violence – I never would. What I find hard to accept though is the lack of willingness by Governments, not for profits, researchers and society in general to go deeper and really try to understand what is brewing beneath the surface of these men who feel so lacking in control that they have to exert it through physical and psychological means with their nearest and dearest.
In a moment of rage, after a cycle of stalking and intimate partner violence, Adelle was murdered at her house early one Saturday morning. Mercifully the children were staying with their biological father. Not only was a beautiful person wrenched from us too soon but two traumatised motherless children were left behind. To truly honour Adelle’s memory, and the many others like her, we must strive to end this violence through proper research and understanding. The sentencing of the accused should not be the final chapter of the book, but merely the beginning. To not do so is to continue to allow the statistics to pile up through inaction. I’m not signing a pledge. Rather I’m giving serious consideration to how I might become a champion of change in this space. Not a white ribbon walker, but someone who does something meaningful that can help reverse these dreadful crimes, or assist women who have suffered to get back on their feet. As I watch the Adele concert on March the 4th at the Gabba I’m sure that the spirit of Adelle will be close to those who knew her. Though I won’t ever hear her say ‘Hello’ again I have a feeling some brightness might emerge from this gloom to light the way… just like Adelle’s smile used to…just like Adele’s music does.