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A point-by-point rebuttal of Tony Veitch’s terrible column

Yesterday the Herald previewed its admirable #betterthanthis series on domestic violence by attempting to address the elephant in its room: Tony Veitch. Unfortunately the broadcaster used his column to paint himself as the real victim, says Delaney Mes.

New Zealand has the highest rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the world. New Zealand Police receive a call alleging domestic abuse about every eight minutes. It is thought 80% of family violence goes unreported. We have a really, really big problem in this country, and it should be a constant source of national shame. So the Herald’s #betterthanthis campaign launching today is admirable – a much-needed media response to an enormous societal issue.

It’s a shame then, that the great journalism we’re about to see has been undermined by the paper devoting prominent space to a narcissistic non-apology by Tony Veitch. The broadcaster’s column, published in the Herald on Sunday, was meant to showcase his “acceptance, remorse, and recovery” following a violent attack on his former partner Kristin Dunne-Powell a decade ago. Instead, the general impression it left was of a man attempting to minimise responsibility for his actions, while pretending to own them and apologise.

A little close reading, and some rebuttal.

It is 10 years since I turned from the man I’d always wanted to be, to a man I could not control.

The ‘lack of control’ excuse is common. If you weren’t in control, it kind-of wasn’t you. Yet perpetrators of intimate partner violence are able to carefully target their violence towards their victims – not their employers or their mates – no matter how angry or out of control they get.

In January 2006 I made a huge mistake, a grave misjudgment on my behalf that has impacted the lives of many people and for that I am truly sorry. Even though it was the only time that I have ever lashed out in my life, once was too much. I should have walked away, but instead I hurt someone and I can’t ever make that go away.

This is simply wrong, according to both Veitch’s police file and this powerful column by the victim’s father. Steve Dunne says Veitch didn’t just “lash out” once, but many times in a “systematic abusive pattern”. One of these men is telling the truth, but it can’t be both.

Sir Paul Holmes Farewelled In Auckland

Veitch also says he’s “truly sorry” for his actions. But Dunne says he has never apologised to the person who matters most – his victim.

Poor judgment on my behalf changed so much that day and I apologise unreservedly for that.

Poor judgment? Veitch admitted to kicking his partner so hard that it broke her spine. The victim’s family, and the police file, indicate that attack wasn’t an isolated incident. Writing that off as a single day of “poor judgement” is textbook minimising behaviour.

I live with what I did every day and as a result of my role in media, I live with it everywhere.

Hold on a minute mate, I’m confused. You live with it everywhere? You? Or your victim, and all victims of domestic violence, who see your giant face promoted on billboards, and their Facebook friends liking your shit, who are constantly reminded that our country essentially supports violent offenders. It’s not you who has to live with it everyday. It’s them.

My story is public and while that’s hard personally, maybe it is a good thing.

This statement would be more believable if Veitch hadn’t paid to hide his story.  

Perhaps somewhere it might help someone else make a better decision.

It definitely could do if Veitch used his very public and prominent voice to help other men, educate people regarding family violence, reinforce the message that it’s not acceptable, and that it is OK to get help. Having a public role in broadcasting is a privilege, and comes with great responsibility. It makes being genuinely remorseful, taking ownership of your actions, and trying to make things right, all the more important.

To think of myself as a component of New Zealand’s horrendous family violence statistics is appalling to me. I have embarrassed my family, my Mum and Dad who taught me right from wrong and who taught me to be a good person.

It is appalling. It is appalling to many of us who don’t think he should have a prominent platform from which to share his opinion. He should be embarrassed. And yet, it’s so clearly a case of being embarrassed his actions came to light, rather than being embarrassed about what he did.

Veitch mentions himself more than 100 times in his column without once addressing his victim. Instead, it reads like he’s the victim; he’s the one who has bounced back from a bad situation.

It’s not too late to say sorry, but there’s work to do. Claiming remorse in a headline, yet not mentioning the victim, doesn’t actually show remorse. It’s a sinister flaw in our sports-mad country that Veitch is the one getting sympathy. He’s the one getting heard. It reinforces the message that voices of victims don’t matter, that bad behaviour can be swept under the rug. Unless we keep calling it out and demanding accountability from people like him, then nothing will change.

We’re better than this, New Zealand.

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