The Melbourne Cup is a living nightmare for too many Australian women

On Melbourne Cup day, a horse will win, millions of Aussies will have a punt, and domestic violence rates will soar.

The Cup is a long-standing sporting and cultural institution in Australia, and while we know that every year there’ll be office sweeps, sickies and flowing champagne, the one thing many of us don’t realise is there is also a devastating spike in intimate partner violence.

Today, we’ll drink $70 million worth of alcohol, and wager an astonishing average of $1000 per person.

This combination of binge drinking and gambling creates something of a perfect storm for abusive behaviour.

The Australian Institute of Criminology states that there is a significantly higher number of reported domestic violence incidents on Cup day, a disturbing trend that not enough of us are aware of.

Horse euthanised after suffering fractured shoulder in 2018 Melbourne Cup

Almost two women every week in Australia are killed by current or former partners, and one-in-six Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence from partners in their lifetime.

To think that these already shockingly high rates take a significant upswing on Cup day is a horrifying thought.

Of course, to lay the blame at the feet of the race is absurd – but we have to realise that the culture of drinking and gambling that surrounds it isn’t just knockabout larrikins having a laugh, it has a devastating dark side as well.

And as Libby Davis, CEO of White Ribbon Australia told SBS, it’s also not just alcohol and gambling that leads to spousal abuse.

95% of domestic abuse is perpetrated by men, so wider social attitudes towards women naturally play a crucial role as well.

This sort of violence doesn’t just come out of the blue because horses are running fast and the lads are sinking tins – it’s an extension of pernicious gender attitudes that are still so sadly prevalent.

The belief in rigid gender roles, victim blaming, a sense of entitlement, the notion the women should play second fiddle to men and the idea that it’s the man’s job to ‘put women in their place’ undoubtedly contribute to domestic violence.

The damaging idea as well, that men are inherently violent also plays a role – with research finding that the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude is not only deeply entrenched in Australian society, it’s frequently used to excuse and normalise violent behaviour towards both men and women.

The Melbourne Cup isn’t the problem – we should be able to drink, gamble and watch horses run quickly without abusing our partners.

But the Melbourne Cup is, in many ways, a distillation of everything Australian – the good and the bad.

A love of sport, community spirit, larrikinism, having a drink with mates and sadly, abusing women.

This article was originally published on October 31, 2016.

About the author

Riordan is Techly’s News and Social Editor. He promises to tweet more at @riordanl

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