Ipswich West MP Sean Choat has apologised to the Ipswich Women’s Centre Against Domestic Violence for his remarks in parliament about domestic violence.
Ipswich West MP Sean Choat has apologised to the Ipswich Women’s Centre Against Domestic Violence for his remarks in parliament about domestic violence. Rob Williams

Choat's speech on violence against women backfires

STUPID. Unintelligent. Ignorant. Medieval.

They are words used to describe Ipswich West MP Sean Choat's speech in parliament on Tuesday night when, on White Ribbon Day, he waxed lyrical about a 14th century nun who stayed with her abusive husband and "through humility, kindness and patience" was able to convert him into a better person before his death.

Mr Choat said that the story of the nun, St Rita, "gives hope to victims of domestic violence, but demonstrates that this is an age-old problem we just cannot allow to continue".

But his remarks have received a stern rebuke from female leaders in the Ipswich community.

Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller said it was "unbelievable that Sean Choat would choose such a story that only reinforces the horrible myth that it is the responsibility of women experiencing domestic violence to change the behaviour of their abuser".

She said women and children who have suffered domestic violence would "never forgive him for trivialising domestic violence and he must be held to account".

"He must apologise unconditionally."

Gabrielle Borggaard, the Ipswich Women's Centre Against Domestic Violence manager, said her organisation "did get an e-mail from Sean Choat where he has clarified his statement and apologised profusely".

She said Mr Choat's remarks enabled her to raise some "very important points".

"It is very important not to blame victims for the abuse and also very important not to put pressure on women to stay in those abusive situations,"she said.

"The responsibility for the abuse lies with the person using violence.

"We have almost one woman killed every week in Australia due to domestic and family violence and one woman hospitalised every three hours.

"It is something we need to stand up against and change. We need to make it very clear there is accountability in our community for the person choosing violence."

Labor candidate for Ipswich Jennifer Howard contrasted Mr Choat's remarks with how "on White Ribbon Day in Ipswich, thousands of men stood up and said no to violence in our homes".

"Campbell Newman must demand an apology from Sean Choat to the tens of thousands of women in Queensland he has offended with his ignorant statement to the parliament."

Mr Choat told the QT he was opposed to domestic violence and had been misunderstood.

"I am a Catholic and I happened to see that St Rita is the patron saint for abused women," he said.

"That poor girl was 12 in an arranged and forced marriage but there was no-one to stand up for her in 14th century Italy.

"Unfortunately some people have read the quotes I took from her biography and thought I was saying people in those situations should try and have humility, which is ridiculous. My point with her is that she never lost hope. Victims need to reach out, whether it be to a friend, a GP or police."

Blair MP Shayne Neumann said Mr Choat's use of a 14th century nun as a model for women suffering domestic violence was "medieval, weird" and "a perversion of religious beliefs".

"It is a blame the victim mentality. The men have to stop perpetrating the violence. It is not up to the victim to stay with the perpetrator."

Ms Miller said Mr Choat, no matter what his intention, was sending "the wrong message" and his "stupid" comments "show how unintelligent and out of touch with the people he represents he is".

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