Stop asking my husband “Did you push her?”

“Did you push her?” has been the awful question frequently addressed to my husband, in my presence, after I broke my ankle 5 weeks ago. I fell down our stairs, he wasn’t home.

When I first heard people ask him “Did you push her?” I was shocked but assumed it was a one-off tasteless comment. Now I’ve heard it multiple times, from both genders. Often from strangers who know nothing about us, but sometimes from friends who should know better.

Even a health worker asked him “Did you push her?”

Yesterday I went for a blood test about an unrelated matter. The phlebotomist, a health worker, asked him “Did you push her?”  She had just been alone in the room with me and certainly had not checked for domestic violence. That was the only time I’d been alone with a health worker, without my husband, who has been transporting and caring for me since my accident.

“Did you push her?” is not funny.

“Did you push her” is not a joke. I’m not laughing and neither is my husband. It minimises domestic violence and it’s silencing of victims. Imagine being a victim of domestic violence and someone jokingly asks the perpetrator (in your presence) if he pushed you. He’s certainly not going to admit it and she’s likely to be too fearful to say anything. The question itself may increase her danger by antagonising the perpetrator.

Don’t assume you can recognise a victim of domestic violence

Maybe you’re thinking they’re only asking my husband “Did you push her?” because its so obvious I am not a victim of domestic violence. That argument assumes a domestic violence victim can be identified at first glance by a stranger. None of my recent clients who had been attacked in their homes by their partners had a sign on their heads saying “victim of domestic violence”.  They do not have downcast eyes. Their clothes aren’t torn and bedraggled. They do not have obvious bruises. They were all women – a busy, thoughtful mum of 4 children, a successful business woman and an older semi-retired woman (who looked a lot like me).  All were in dangerous situations.

Don’t assume you can recognise a perpetrator of domestic violence

“Did you push her?” also assumes that a perpetrator can be identified easily.  I have lost count of the times clients have told me that violent perpetrators in the home, were upstanding community citizens. You cannot recognise a perpetrator through a casual interaction.

“Did you push her?” belittles the high rate of domestic violence in Australia.

These statistics are from Mission Australia:

16% of women (1.5 million) and 5.9% of men (528,800) have experienced physical violence from a partner since they were 15.

On average, one woman per week is killed by a current or former partner.

On average, one male per month is killed by a current or former partner.

Stop giving tacit approval for domestic violence

“Did you push her?” along with the nudge nudge, wink wink, that I’ve often seen accompanying the question, seems to carry with it tacit approval that it’s ok to push a woman down the stairs. Is this really 2021? Have we learnt nothing? The question disgusts and saddens me.

How you can help if you suspect an injury was caused by domestic violence?

First stop asking “Did you push her?”

  • Take the victim aside. Privately and quietly ask them what happened.
  • Ask them directly “did someone hurt you?”
  • Believe them if they tell you they were abused.
  • Respect them if they don’t want to talk about it.
  • Ask what you can do to help.
  • Direct them to 1800Respect the Domestic Violence Hotline
  • If they are in immediate danger call 000