The wife as a possession

The Age published an article today about a woman who was six times the legal blood alcohol limit when we went to pick up her children from school yesterday.  Her BAC came to light after she forgot to put the handbrake on and her car rolled into the back of another vehicle.  The owner of the damaged car suspected that the woman was drunk and called the police.

Much was made about the fact that the woman had driven without accident to the school.  Much was also made of the fact that she had been driving with her six month old child in the car with her (I assume suitably restrained).  Little was made of the fact that had she not rolled into the car in front of her that she would have driven her children home.

A lot was made of the fact that she appeared coherent and was capable of driving at that BAC.  This suggests to me that she may be an alcoholic, and I mention this solely due to the comment made by one of the police officers involved:

He said the woman’s husband left work early and arrived at the crash scene to collect the children.

The husband said his wife was dealing with some issues which had led her to consume alcohol.

She had been drinking for most of the day, but did not say what she had consumed or how much.

‘‘[The husband] seems to have things in hand and he’s now obviously fully aware of her drinking habits and the fact that she should not be driving and possibly looking after the kids. He has involved some extended family to assist with that now and it’s not something that we want to punish him for in relation to his actions.’’

[These quotes and comments are from Leading Senior Constable Hewatt]

Alcoholics develop a higher tolerance for alcohol and due to the stigma attached to alcoholism are unlikely to seek treatment or support (Wikipedia).  So suggesting that somehow “the husband” (let’s call him George), knew about his wife’s illness, and that he somehow was responsible for her behaviour is alarming.  How could the police suggest that there are any laws under which George could be charged or punished for his wife’s behaviour.  He knew about her issues, whatever they may be, but it doesn’t sound like he knew about her alcoholism.

It is after all 2012.  Men are no longer responsible for their wives.  Men no longer own their wives.  Women these days are independent beings who can be held responsible for their behaviour, a fact that has clearly escaped Leading Senior Constable Hewatt.  To even suggest that George should be held responsible for his wife’s endangerment of their children is incredibly sexist and about a hundred years out of step with modern society.

I hope that George, his wife, and their children have all the support they need.  I suspect that this will turn ugly for them in their community and at the school their children attend.

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