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Domestic Violence

Feb 172015
 

male-victim-of-domestic-violenceIn 2007, a New South Wales father of two who we’ll call Kevin Logan fell ill. Paralysed, he went to hospital and stayed there for two months. On returning home, he was bedridden for most of the day and unable to work. That’s when his wife’s verbal taunting began. What started as persistent criticisms intensified into threats. Gradually the emotional abuse escalated into physical violence.

One night a few years later, as she set upon him with shoving and biting, Kevin pushed his wife. She fell and hit her head on the side of the couch. When the police arrived, she was demanding his arrest. But on hearing the full story, the police said she should be arrested. She’d initiated the altercation and her husband had acted to defend himself. Kevin refused to press charges.

After the episode with police, Kevin left his family home and lived out of his cleaning van for three months. “People say to me, ‘Why didn’t you go to your mum’s or your brother’s first?'” Kevin told VICE. “But how do you go and tell your family that your wife’s been abusing you?”

The silence experienced by Kevin is typical of family violence against men. And while this could be said of family violence in general, there is a particular shortage of dialogue and services around male victims.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures from 2013 outline that for the prior 12 months one in three victims of current intimate partner violence were male. In January, NSW Police reported that last year one in every five family violence incidents they responded to involving intimate partners were for male victims. The perpetrators in these incidents were both male and female.

Any man can experience family violence, regardless of socio-economic status, sexual preference, and culture. However, the limited research available suggests that men with disabilities or mental health issues, members of the LGBTI community and those who have grown up in an environment with family violence, are more likely to experience it.

The 2010 Intimate Partner Abuse of Men Report outlines that the physical abuse suffered by men ranges from punching to biting to use of weapons. And there were many reported cases of abuse that were not physical but rather verbal, psychological, or sexual. The effects of abuse can lead victims to develop mental disorders and suicidal tendencies. They can lose sense of their own masculinity and many become unemployed as a result.

At present family violence is very much on the national agenda. Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced last week that a Council of Australian Governments national advisory panel into family violence will be established and a Victorian Royal Commission into the issue begins sitting this month. While these inquiries and others like them are vital, it’s likely they’ll only touch on the issue of male victims, if they do at all.

So as Australia begins dealing with its family violence crisis, what’s causing the almost blanket denial of its male victims?

According to Greg Andresen, senior researcher of the One in Three Campaign, a lot of it has to do with society’s deep-seated views on masculinity, which leave male victims unable to discuss what’s happening to them because they’re too ashamed.

“They fear they won’t be believed or understood, that their experiences will be downplayed, that they will be blamed for the violence,” Andresen said. “They may not even identify as a victim of family violence because they have been told victims are female.”

Many in the community struggle to grasp the idea of a man being physically abused, but as Andresen explained, “a woman with a knife is going to be just as effective as a man with a knife.”

This silence is further impacted by the lack of any specialist services for men. In 2009, when Kevin began his search for help, he found little available. A local case worker told him he didn’t fit the criteria for their family violence program, while a second counsellor advised him to attend an anger management course.

“The services just weren’t there. I rang the NSW Department of Community Services, their domestic violence hotline and they said, ‘Sorry I don’t believe you were abused by your wife. Only men abuse women,'” He recounted.

And little has changed. Frontline services — such as ambulances, Lifeline and Legal Aid — are available to both women and men, but most family violence crisis services that provide support through the court process and help in finding accommodation are available only for women. “That is the link in the chain that is still not available to men,” Andresen added.

But there have been some positive changes in NSW. Recently, small pilot programs at the Downing Centre and Parramatta courthouses have started providing free assistance to men during the court process. The NSW Senate Inquiry into Domestic Violence recognised that men make up a significant portion of family violence victims, yet don’t have access to adequate services. This has resulted in some services being made available to men as well as women, such as the housing subsidy Start Safely.

Last month, NSW Police posted a message on their Facebook page to raise public awareness about family violence towards men. Part of an ongoing family violence campaign, the post sparked a social media debate, simultaneously supporting police for finally addressing the issue, whilst criticising the approach they take when dealing with male victims.

But Andresen thinks on whole the police are doing a good job. “They’re quite aware that male victims exist because they’re out there on the front line going into houses at 3am.” But he added, “Unfortunately there are still individual police officers who may, when a male victim comes to the station, tell him to man up, go home and take it on the chin.”

Over recent years, NSW Police have been dealing with more incidents of family violence, as reported cases against both women and men have increased. Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch from NSW Police told VICE that police provide the same level of service to all victims regardless of their gender, age or social circumstance.

Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulrgregoire

Sep 212014
 

 

One in Three Campaign

One third of domestic violence victims denied services

Following last week’s launch of Our Watch,  a new national initiative aimed to prevent violence against women and their children – the One in Three Campaign has released a new analysis of the latest Australian data on male victims of family violence.
Senior Researcher Greg Andresen said, “We are very glad to see violence against women being taken so seriously by the Australian Government. However we are extremely concerned that one third of victims of sexual assault and family violence are excluded by One Watch and its sister organisation ANROWS simply on the basis of their gender.”
The analysis of the ABS Personal Safety Survey and the AIC Homicide in Australia, 2008?10, published today by One in Three, challenges the claim that the vast majority of family violence is committed by men against women and children. Using the same data sources as Fact Sheets recently released by ANROWS, the new data analysis paints a very different picture of gender and family violence in Australia.
“The statistics presented by ANROWS have been designed to over-inflate female victimisation by using lifetime experience of violence instead of current rates, while downplaying male victimisation by taking only the female perspective,” said Mr Andresen.
“75 males were killed in domestic homicide incidents between 2008-10. That’s one death every 10 days,? said Mr Andresen. “1.2 million Australian men have experienced emotional abuse by a partner, almost half a million have experienced violence by a partner and almost a third of a million have experienced violence by a girlfriend/boyfriend or date. Where are the services for these men and boys?”
The vast majority of domestic violence services in Australia are closed to males. There are no shelters for men and their children, no safe rooms or legal support at courthouses, no community education and prevention programmes, no support groups, no perpetrator programs for women or health service screening tools for men.
One in Three is calling upon the Australian Government to comply with its international human rights obligations and provide programs and services for male, as well as female victims of family violence.
“There is simply no excuse for this kind of sexist discrimination in Australia in 2014,” said Mr Andresen.
Male victims of family violence: key statistics
 
  • More than 1 in 3 victims of domestic homicide were male (38.7%)
  • 2 in 5 victims of physical and/or sexual child abuse were male (39.0%)
  • 1 in 3 victims of current partner violence were male (33.3%)
  • Almost 1 in 3 victims of violence from a boyfriend/girlfriend or date were male (27.9%)
  • More than 1 in 3 victims of partner emotional abuse were male (37.1%)
  • 1 in 3 victims of stalking were male (34.2%)
  • Almost 1 in 3 victims of sexual assault were male (29.6%)
Male victims of family violence were:
  • 2 to 3 times more likely than women to have never told anybody about experiencing partner violence
  • Twice as likely as women to have never sought advice or support about experiencing partner violence
  • Up to 40% more likely than women to have not contacted police about experiencing partner violence
  • Half as likely as women to have had a restraining order issued against the perpetrator of partner violence.

MEDIA CONTACT

Greg Andresen, Senior Researcher, One in Three Campaign, 0403 813 925 or info@oneinthree.com.au

Jul 202014
 

vHot on the heals of the current Child Support Inquiry being held in Parliament, on the 26 June 2014, the Abbott government agreed to another Inquiry related to family law, which was referred to the Finance and Public Administration References Committee for inquiry and report by the 27 October 2014.

This new Inquiry is stated to have the following goals:

  1. To investigate and report on the prevalence and impact of domestic violence in Australia as it affects all Australians and, in particular, as it affects:women living with a disability, and
  2. women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds;
  3. the factors contributing to the present levels of domestic violence;
  4. the adequacy of policy and community responses to domestic violence;
  5. the effects of policy decisions regarding housing, legal services, and women‘s economic independence on the ability of women to escape domestic violence;
  6. how the Federal Government can best support, contribute to and drive the social, cultural and behavioural shifts required to eliminate violence against women and their children; and
  7. any other related matters.

What is not clear at this stage is whether this inquiry will be interested in investigating all forms of domestic violence against all victims, or whether it will only be concerned with women with disabilities and women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, or alternatively just with women in general as victims.

At this point the information available is contradictory, making references to “as it affects all Australians” in one place, but elsewhere referring to women and/or children exclusively.

It may be, as is too often the case with Parliamentary inquiries, that this is an exercise in public relations first and foremost, and based on past experience, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott is only too happy to promote his apparent new found Liberalism when it comes to women’s issues.

So we at Fathers4Equality would not be  surprised if submissions by men and/or fatherhood groups would be ignored or deleted from the record.

That being the case, we would still encourage everyone with constructive thoughts on how to improve the policy surrounding Domestic Violence to document it and submit it to the Inquiry. You never know, it may make a difference after all.

Please keep in mind that the Inquiry will not be considering or examining any material that relates solely to personal cases or grievances. The Inquiry is however seeking suggestions on the current adequacy of domestic violence policy as it relates to housing, legal services and women’s (and hopefully men’s too) economic independence on their ability to escape violence.

For further information:

Committee Secretariat contact:
Senate Finance and Public Administration Committees
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Phone: +61 2 6277 3439
Fax: +61 2 6277 5809

Submissions closing date is 31 July 2014. The reporting date is 27 October 2014.

Jun 282014
 

women-the-aggressors-in-dvContrary to the overwhelming perception in society, numerous studies and statistics recently published from a variety of disparate sources have indicated that women are more likely to be verbally and physically aggressive to their partners than men, and are increasingly participating in serious acts of violence against other men, women, the elderly and children.

The findings were presented to a symposium on “intimate partner violence” (IPV) at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Forensic Psychology annual conference in Glasgow.

Dr Elizabeth Bates from the University of Cumbria and colleagues from the University of Central Lancashire gave 1104 students (706 women and 398 men) questionnaires about their physical aggression and controlling behaviour, towards partners and to same-sex others (including friends).

Women were revealed to be more likely to be physically aggressive to their partners, and men were more likely to be physically aggressive to their same-sex partners.

Women were also shown to engage in greater levels of controlling behavior, which is understood to be a predictor of physical aggression in both sexes.

“This was an interesting finding,” Dr Bates says. “Previous studies have sought to explain male violence towards women as rising from patriarchal values, which motivate men to seek to control women’s behaviour, using violence if necessary.

“This study found that women demonstrated a desire to control their partners and were more likely to use physical aggression than men.

“It wasn’t just pushing and shoving,” Dr Bates said, of responses to the anonymous questionnaire. “Some people were circling the boxes for things like beating up, kicking, and threatening to use a weapon.

“The feminist movement made violence towards women something we talk about. Now there is more support for men and more of them are coming forward.”

In another finding in Australia, the number of men who report experiencing domestic violence from their current partner has almost doubled since 2005, according to a new survey released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The ABS Personal Safety Survey 2012 collected information from men and women aged 18 years and over about their experience of violence since the age of 15.

Meanwhile, girls have been found to be more devious than boys in their torment of classmates, Australia’s biggest childhood study reveals.

Kids who are poor, overweight, Aboriginal, disabled or living with a single mother are most likely to be picked on in the playground, the Australian Institute of Family Studies has found in a survey of more than 4000 children aged 10 and 11.

Three in every five kids had been subjected to “unfriendly behaviour” in the past year, ranging from hitting to name-calling and being left out of social groups.

And according to new national crime figures women are now outpacing men in the violence stakes, with the rate of women committing assaults jumping 49 per cent since the mid 1990s.

Australian Institute of Criminology data shows the number of female assaults per 100,000 women increased from 125 to 186 between 1996 and 2010 compared to an increase of just 18 per cent for men, while other figures show that mother’s were by far the single biggest group responsible for child abuse and child murder in Australia.

Griffith University’s Violence Research and Prevention Program director Professor Paul Mazerolle said there was “no question” young women were getting more involved in violence: “There’s been a moderate increase in [female] violence but we as a community are less tolerant of violence so we’re seeing more of a response from police.”

Credit: Roberta Parisi – Family Law Express

Feb 012014
 

single-parent-families-bad-for-childrenSOCIAL progressives on both sides of politics may not like the message or the messenger, but Cory Bernardi had a point about the benefits of the traditional family.

Decades of social science data has shown that children, on average, do better in life on measures of health, education and social outcomes when raised in two-parent married families.

The risks to children associated with family breakdown disprove the fashionable idea that marriage, divorce, and sole parenting don’t matter for children.

The importance of marriage to children’s wellbeing is especially relevant to one of the most important child welfare issues facing the nation – child sexual abuse.

The vast majority of child sexual abuse occurs within the family setting. However, the fact that in 70-80 per cent of cases the perpetrator is found to have a “familial relationship” with the abused child obscures a more significant truth.

Numerous studies have found that children who do not live with both biological parents, irrespective of socio-economic status, are far more likely to be sexually abused than their peers in traditional families. Girls living in non-traditional families are found to have been sexually abused by their “stepfathers”, either the married, cohabiting, or casual partner of a divorced or single mother, at many times the rate that girls are sexually abused by their biological fathers in traditional families.

The 2010 US Fourth National Incidence Study of Abuse and Neglect found that compared to peers living in married two-biological-parent families, children living with a single parent who had a partner in the home were 20 times more likely to be sexually abused. Children living with a single parent with no cohabiting partner, and children living in a stepfamily (with married biological and non-biological parents), were five times and between eight and nine times more likely to be sexually abused, respectively.

Step and single-parent families accounted for only one-third of all children in the US (33 per cent) but accounted for more than two-thirds (66.8 per cent) of all children who experienced child sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse statistics in Australia are far less comprehensive and meaningful. Data publicly available here does not provide specific information about family structure, the identity of the perpetrator, and their relationship with the abused child.

This is symptomatic of the deeper silences in the national conversation about child sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been widely applauded for finally “breaking the silence” surrounding child sexual abuse.

The commission’s inquiry into the ways that churches, schools and other institutions have mishandled child sexual abuse is crucial. However, we should still question the extent to which the commission’s findings will ensure children are better protected from sexual abuse in the future when the well-established but under-publicised links between family structure and child sexual abuse are not being investigated.

When the Australian Christian Lobby released a major report on child welfare in 2011 detailing the evidence demonstrating that family breakdown is a major risk factor for child sexual abuse, the facts were neither disputed nor acknowledged in the little public discussion that ensued. They simply washed in and out of the public domain and left no trace on community attitudes.

The issues are not fully and frankly discussed in this country because the public discourse is self-censored, in effect, by politicians, academics, social service organisations, and the media in compliance with politically correct attitudes towards “family diversity”, the socially “progressive” and “non-judgmental” fiction that says the traditional family is just one among many, and equally worthy, family forms.

In hindsight, we are justifiably critical of the silences that in earlier times kept child sexual abuse a hidden problem. Yet a comparable silence exists today.

Greater community awareness is needed of the potentially harmful impact the relationship and reproductive choices of adults can have on children. This could be achieved by a government-commissioned, anti-child sexual abuse public information campaign. The campaign should emphasise that the traditional family is a protective factor that prevents child sexual abuse. It should also publicise how divorce and single-parenthood increases the risk of sexual abuse for the more than one in four Australian children who do not live with both biological parents.

This is not as radical as it sounds. In New York and Chicago, public information campaigns are encouraging marriage before having children and discouraging teen pregnancy. Barack Obama has also endorsed the need for “strong stable families” to reduce poverty in America.

Australian governments already conduct advertising campaigns such as anti-smoking and anti-drink driving campaigns to educate citizens, promote certain values, and change attitudes and behaviours. A public information campaign that advertised the risks to children posed by family breakdown would end the new silence that hides the culturally unfashionable truth.

Jeremy Sammut is a research fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies. His report, The New Silence: Family Breakdown and Child Sexual Abuse, is released today.

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