Are we more violent than ever? Probably not. In fact, if historical trends in violent crime are anything to go by, we’ve never been less violent. Steven Pinker has called this the myth of violence – the perception, especially in the face of modern conflict, that we are now more violent than ever.
Whatever the case may be, discussions of violence are often the province of myth, mistake and, sadly, misdirection. Visibility is a huge issue here. Statistics, especially, are haunted by what crime historians call the “dark figures” of unreported crime.
But even with increasing rates of reporting many violent criminal offences often suffer from distortions in the public imagination. Sexual assaults are a case in point – despite a fixation on “stranger rape”, the overwhelming majority of these offences are committed by intimates. Because the realities of sexual violence don’t always sit well with popular images of either victimhood or aggression, these discussions can end up in more sinister territory – in other words, we start to ask whether we’re talking about violence at all.
It’s also possible a focus on violence as violent crime distracts from the broader role of violence in Australian society. While the word “violence” is almost always used pejoratively there are a whole host of socially sanctioned behaviours that are, arguably, quite violent. Policing and incarceration are two obvious examples, but what about rough sex, contact sports or even surgery? Clearly, naming has a role to play in societal perceptions of violence.
It’s with this in mind that Right Now considers the relationship between violence and rights. This month our writers ask how violence – be it petty theft or indictable crime, protest or riot policing – either violates or implicates rights. In doing so, we hope the focus will be less on how violent we are than on how we are violent.
Alongside our September content, the Right Now Essay Series continues in very capable hands. This month, Ellena Savage discusses intimate partner violence in Australia, and the need to locate violence in a gendered framework.
When ABC journalist Jill Meagher was killed, the media led the community in an outpouring of grief. But the same cannot be said about the death of sex worker Tracy Connolly, who was also tragically murdered. Kate Galloway asks why.
The basic premise of the Kick-Ass films is to shock. Yet Kick-Ass 2 is so much poorer a film than its predecessor that together they offer an informative case study on Hollywood’s obsession with violence, writes Sam Ryan.
A refugee’s journey is often filled with violence, even after they land on Australian shores. Asher Hirsch details some real examples of the violence that occurs in Australian-run detention centres.
On average, a woman dies every week as a consequence of domestic violence. Social media has created new ways for perpetrators to seek out and harass their partners and victims, but it also can provide valuable resources and support for women who have suffered abuse, writes Leona Hameed.