Sometimes ideas are well-meaning, but dangerous. And this idea of screening all men after break ups of long term relationships is one such idea.
It’s a proposal from Heather Nancarrow with the Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety. She’s made this proposal because of the horrific decision by New Zealander Rowan Baxter to kill his wife and kids in Brisbane after the couple separated.
I understand that Ms Nancarrow means well, and I get that this is clearly coming from place of desperation at seeing so many cases of men hurting woman.
But this is bad idea.
For a start, it seems impossible to actually implement. Who do you screen? All men? Given that the vast majority of men don’t want to hurt their families, are we prepared to use all those resources to screen every newly-single man in this country, just to find the few who might do something like this?
How would you know their relationship’s broken up? With a marriage it’s obvious, because there’s a divorce, but what about other relationships? Will people have to register all relation break ups?
How long does a relationship have to be before it qualifies as ‘long term’ and then requires male screening?
What kind of relationship are we talking about? Marriage or de facto relationships or relationships where people are lovers but live in different houses?
But worse than anything else: Why? Would we screen all men?
All men don’t hurt their families, so why would we make every single one of them front up and answer questions about whether they would.
Aren’t we starting from the assumption that all men are violent? And isn’t that dangerous? It’s a presumption of guilt before any act has been committed.
An idea like this is fashionable in the age of Me Too and Toxic Masculinity to blame men generally, when the truth is not all men are threats. I have brothers and a husband and nephews and cousins and friends who are kind and gentle men and I don’t think deserve the assumption that they are violent threats just because they’re men.
Rowan Baxter was a violent threat. He didn’t need to be screened to establish that he was dangerous. People already knew that. They knew his wife Hannah Clarke was already scared of him.
It’s wrong to demonise all men for what he’s done.