Content Warning: This piece discusses domestic violence and sexual assault.
Journalist Julia Baird and commentator Andrew Bolt have clashed over reports by the latter on the ABC’s webpage about domestic abuse in churches.
In a series of articles that has been running since late 2017, Dr. Baird and cowriter Hayley Gleeson have explored research that suggests churches have high percentages of domestic violence. The series has been widely read and led to a number of church denominations apologising to domestic abuse survivors and vowing to be more vigilant in detecting abuse within their congregations.
This, Mr. Bolt argued, was tantamount to an attack on churches. A tweet promoting his show, The Bolt Report, suggested that the ABC “cites a dodgy survey to slander Christians.”
— The Bolt Report (@theboltreport) March 27, 2018
Dr Baird responded in an open letter published on her Facebook page, defending the series’ fairness and accuracy.
“We reported both the insights and shortcomings of the study in the UK which found one in four church goers had experienced domestic abuse,” Dr. Baird wrote.
“Nowhere did it or we say “Christians are likely to be wife beaters”, as you have claimed. (As we previously reported the UK Bishops said in 2006 they believed the incidence of domestic violence inside the church was about the same as it was outside.)”
According to Dr. Baird, more local data will be needed to determine whether or not the same rates of abuse apply in the Australian context as appear to occur in the United Kingdom.
Dr. Baird went on to complement Mr. Bolt on his coverage of sexual misconduct allegations against former gardening broadcaster Don Burke. However, she called for the Sky News presenter to consider the impact of abuse on survivors.
“It takes a lot of courage for abused, harassed or assaulted women to tell their stories to the media, as you acknowledged,” she wrote.
“The same is true of those in temples, synagogues, mosques and churches. These women also deserve respect.”
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor