FixedIt: domestic abuse is not a “play fight”

August 21, 2020by Jane Gilmore

The Courier Mail reported that a man pleaded guilty to breaching domestic violence orders after he sprayed carpet cleaner into his partner’s face, yelled at her until she tried to leave in fear then broke her glasses and took her phone. 

The “play fight” quote was from his interview with police, who arrived to find the woman distressed and trying to wash the carpet cleaner out of her eyes. The man told police they were “play fighting” and said he had sprayed her on the clothes not in the face.

It’s not clear from the article whether the man also made this claim in court, but even if he did, the quote does not belong in the headline. He pled guilty to domestic violence offences, not  a “play fight”. Spraying cleaning fluids into someone’s face is not a “play fight”. Intimidating a woman, breaking her glasses and taking her phone when she tries to leave is not a “play fight”, no matter what the offender says. 

Too often editors sensationalise headlines with perpetrator’s attempts to justify or erase their violence. It’s a misleading and dangerous practice that diminishes the very real, life-threatening risks of domestic abuse and minimises the choices violent men make when they abuse women they claim to love.  

There were other quotes available even if they didn’t want to go with a straight fact-based headline. 

The Magistrate told the man that “You should be treating (your partner) with dignity at all times,” and “Your life doesn’t have to continue to be controlled by domestic violence. But only you can change that.” There’s some options for a more emotive but still accurate headline right there. 

(as always, if you’re reading this on social media, links are in the OP at )

FixedIt is an ongoing project to push back against the media’s constant erasure of violent men and blaming of innocent victims. If you would like to help fund it – even $5 a month makes a big difference – please consider becoming a Patron

If you would like to know more about how and why the media’s erasure of men’s violence against women occurs, the Fixed It book is out now! Buy your copy here or at any good bookstore. Extracts available on why Fixed It started inThe Guardian, rape and other violence myths in The Age/Sydney Morning Herald and the Good Guy trope on my website.

Sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling and support.24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
Ph: 1800 737 732 

Djirra – Aboriginal Family Violence Response & Support Service
9am – 9pm, Monday to Friday
Ph: 1800 105 303 

Suicide Call Back Service
24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Ph: 1300 659 467

Kids Helpline
24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Phone: 1800 55 1800

MensLine Australia
24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Phone: 1300 78 99 78

Men’s Referral Service
Monday – Friday – 8am-9pm
Weekends – 9am-6pm
Ph: 1300 766 491

© Jane Gilmore 2014