July 5, 2018

Don’s Dynamite: Inappropriate Behaviour – Reprehensible Conduct!

In recent times we’ve seen an outpouring of details relating to inappropriate behaviour by high profile individuals and institutions which should all be above the reprehensible conduct complained of.

The Royal Commission into Sexual Misconduct in Institutions, the establishment of the Me Too Movement and the all too common occurrence of Domestic Violence leave most of us just shaking our heads.

How hard is it to be honest and decent?

The breach of trust which is attendant on the various horror stories related at the Royal Commission is all too obvious, particularly with the details of each set of circumstances outlined by an abused person. The horror of it all and the likely impact on the lives of those abused are not too hard to envisage.

So, where’s the answer to the problem overall? I for one am not qualified to offer recommendations or guidance but as an individual I can offer my thoughts on some aspects of the matters.

We can only hope in due course that the recommendations of the Royal Commission are adopted and that the perpetrators of specific events, who can be identified and are still living, will receive their full measure of justice.

This is essential, if not to demonstrate that such behaviour is not acceptable to the community at large, but to give hope to those who suffered the indignity of the abuse.

The #MeToo Movement is perhaps less clear, though no less objectionable. I always understood that the ‘casting couch’ was very much a thing of the past – apparently not so. There is arguably less disparity here than in the case of institutionalised misconduct – misconduct against the young and vulnerable leave them without choice.

So turning to domestic violence – there is hardly any rational thought or explanation which could come to mind to justify this behaviour. Domestic violence is cowardly – there is no macho or brave element here, just cowardice plain and simple.

Governments seem intent on wiping out domestic violence and with good cause. Domestic violence impacts profoundly on its victims. There are the abused, but the real issue is the potential perpetuation of the violence.

Children and others who are witnesses to the violence are always at risk of concluding that this kind of inappropriate behaviour is the norm – it’s not the norm and this needs to be made crystal clear not only to those who are the perpetrators of domestic violence but to those who are witnesses – they need not be collateral damage.

There are though in some instances, unexpected negative outcomes. Recently I had a client [though thankfully no longer a client] who sought in family law matters to raise alleged domestic violence issues from years earlier as a strategy to gain the upper hand in parenting matters. My view on this is that such an approach is inappropriate and puts the client referred to in the same class as the alleged violent offender.

The use of domestic violence allegations by anyone as a strategy to gain advantage in family law or other court proceedings is unjustified, inappropriate and clearly questions the honesty of the user. Not necessarily as to whether or not the events occurred but the use which should be made of them. The care and well-being of individuals and children is not a negotiation point – it’s a given. Lawyers need to be ever vigilant to ensure that they do not become willing or unwilling participants in aspects of family law or other court proceedings which would be morally and ethically wrong and could lead to breaches of the law.

As I said before, how hard is it to be honest and decent – well we all know that it’s not that hard so let’s make sure that everyone understands the value of life, the importance of a loving and caring environment for our kids and self-respect – self-respect for each other and for everyone in the community.