Sunday, 15 March 2009

Sorry, Tony - I'm struggling to find sympathy

Sports broadcaster Brendan Telfer has come up with a rather cynical way to sell his new autobiography: the book includes an account of the fall from grace of Tony Veitch, following public revelations of Veitch's assault on his ex-partner, Kristin Dunne-Powell.

Apparently, Telfer's book describes Veitch as a 'broken man', destroyed by a vengeful public who jumped to conclusions. It seems to me that the best way to avoid being criticised for domestic violence is to not commit domestic violence. Leaving that aside, however, attempts to cultivate sympathy for Tony Veitch are quite disturbing.

The fact is this: Veitch hasn't apologised. His sorry was follow by 'but', then a range of excuses for the violence he has admitted to committing. If Veitch had made any meaningful attempt to atone for his violence - by admitting that there is no circumstance, not one, which can excuse domestic violence - I would feel sorry for him. I would support his efforts to seek help and reestablish his career. Then, perhaps, he could serve as an example for other men seeking the strength to stop violence.

As it is, we're being asked to feel sorry for a guy who brought his problems entirely on himself, is not particularly repentant about what he's done, and sees no reason why his career should be limited by having made a potentially fatal attack on another human being. Veitch's supporters seem to think that, having smashed a woman's spine and spent a few months being disliked by the public, he should now be able to recommence his privileged, high-paid life as if nothing had happened. Would these supporters be so quick to overlook such a vicious attack on a girlfriend, sister or mother?*

Brendan Telfer's book looks like a new attempt to offer mitigating factors for Veitch's violence. Telfer seems to be playing some sort of semantic game - sure, Veitch admitted to 'lashing out', but did he actually say he'd broken his ex-partner's spine? If this foreshadows the defence Veitch plans to use in his trial, it surely marks a new low in his personal integrity. I have a dark feeling that Veitch's trial will be nothing but a string of misogynistic, nasty slurs against Dunne-Powell's character, which will only be a continuation of his violence against her.

Veitch may indeed be broken. So was Kristin Dunne-Powell's back. One person is responsible for both injuries.

* It's been a few months since charges were laid against dodgy Blue Chip directors. No one has yet said that the public should cut these guys some slack - they've had a lot of public hatred focused on them, and maybe they've suffered enough. Why this different attitude to these two crimes? Is there just some undercurrent of belief that, although it's never OK to make off with someone's savings, domestic violence is sometimes understandable?

15 comments:

Giovanni said...

Not the cleverest use ever of the word "broken", was it?

Jackie Clark said...

I know. Talk about make you spew. When I saw the original Telfer drivel in the paper, I was gobsmacked. He's not the first one, of course, to say how badly Veitch was treated by the press. Excuse me? Could we try being more bloody apologist? I think not. What a berko. Makes me very mad.

Lucy said...

I would have a *fraction* of sympathy for an argument against trial-by-media, but given Veitch's consistent use of the media as pre-emptive defence? Nope, sorry. Live in the public eye, lose grace in the public eye. Even a refusal to speak at all would have served him better than that half-assed non-apology did.

Anna said...

Agreed, Lucy. This wasn't trial by media - there was never any real dispute about what happened. Veitch and his supporters are upset by the public anger at his actions - and really, the only way to make that anger go away is to apologise for what he did. The problem facing Veitch is entirely in his hands to fix.

AWicken said...

Oh well - buying drugs, "lashing out", it's all the same.

Six months off-air and then you get rehabilitated and brought back to TV-land, hand-led by a TV "good mate" who has "supported me throughout".

It has slipped my memory - in his list of "buts", did Veitch pull the Ellis "it's my personaltiy type, I had to try it" excuse?

Julie said...

I have a dark feeling that Veitch's trial will be nothing but a string of misogynistic, nasty slurs against Dunne-Powell's character, which will only be a continuation of his violence against her.
Thank you Anna for this sentence, you have summed up exactly why I have been feeling so squiffy about all this. It is a continuation of the violence, totally. And unless Veitch (and/or his supporters) suddenly get that then I can't see much redemption.

(Also, you go girl with your linking and your italicising!)

A Nonny Moose said...

As a humanist, I believe that people deserve a second chance.

As a feminist, we believe abusers, wife beaters and rapists don't.

So confused.

But yes, if the apologist language hadn't been employed to save his own professional hide, then I might be a bit angrier at the trial by media.

Giovanni said...

As a feminist, we believe abusers, wife beaters and rapists don't.

Really? I know a lot of feminists who don't feel that way at all.

Anna said...

I actually do believe that all these people deserve a second chance - but in Veitch's case, I don't see any interest in changing. Instead, he seems to be looking for new ways to justify his actions.

Giovanni said...

That's because he doesn't want a second chance. He thinks he should still be getting on with the first one.

(The blogger word verification is *hated*, no word of a lie. I can provide a screen captures for sceptics.)

A Nonny Moose said...

I understand.

But I do believe his time for a believable apology has passed, even if/when he sincerely changes. His press conference of "I'm sorry but..." was bad language choice, and anything else he may attempt to do publicly will smack of nothing but a lot of Cry Wolf. Especially if it's dressed up in a ladies mag.

Anna said...

That's true, Moose. There's no concession Veitch could really make at this point except to plead guilty, which seems highly unlikely, given his unwillingness to say sorry, step down from his job graciously, etc.

Julie said...

I think this point about change is worth further discussion. I tend to think that pretty much everyone is capable of change. There are possibly a few people who are so mentally broken that all that can be done is to keep them away from people they can hurt and treat them humanely. But otherwise surely we can help anyone to learn and change, regardless of the crime(s) they originally committed?

There is a difference between remaining sceptical about someone changing, particularly when they show no evidence of even acknowledging what they did was wrong, and ruling it out altogether. Scepticism allows activity that protects people from harm but still allows the person support and the possibility of change.

Sorry if I'm not communicating that very well, my head is full of gunk.

Anna said...

Julie, I see what you're getting at and I agree - the vast majority of people are capable of changing their behaviour.

It's trickier, of course, when the person doesn't see anything particularly wrong with his actions. Of course, part of this is the culture we live in - and is doesn't help that people like Brendan Telfer say, 'I don't condone domestic violence, but...' then go on to list a bunch of mitigating factors or whatever.

The murky thinking around domestic violence (ie that it's more tolerable in some situations than others) really alarms me. I'm remember of the incident between that dickhead the Lion Man and his partner. Heaps of people sympathised with his attack on her (he damaged her back, too) because he claimed he'd caught her being unfaithful. There was no ability in some people's minds to separate the issue of her fidelity or lack thereof from the violence.

So while Veitch ultimately has to wear the blame and take responsbility for changing his behaviour, his mates aren't helping much by implicitly making excuses for his behaviour. IRK.

A Nonny Moose said...

"There is a difference between remaining sceptical about someone changing, particularly when they show no evidence of even acknowledging what they did was wrong, and ruling it out altogether. Scepticism allows activity that protects people from harm but still allows the person support and the possibility of change."

Thanks Julie, that's what I was thinking, without wanting to come across as apologist for the guy, which I'm not.