I didn’t grow up with family violence in my house. My children are not growing up with family violence in their house.
We are very lucky.
1 in 3 women in Australia have experienced domestic violence. It’s statistically likely that either your mother, your sister or your daughter will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives, even if you don’t.
I can count at least 4 families that I know of in my immediate circle that have experienced family violence. That’s 8 adults, 9 children and countless numbers of friends, family, neighbours and support staff including social workers, police and medical staff, whose lives have been touched and irrevocably altered by family violence.
When I received an invitation from The Nappy Collective to come to a bloggers’ forum about domestic violence my first thought was ‘Yes! What an important issue! I’ll be there!’.
However, as the date arrived I became increasingly nervous.
What did I know about domestic violence? Not much.
What can I do about domestic violence? Not much, or so I thought. Surely we just need more services to help women escape violent homes and make sure they stay safe. What could I possibly do to help with that?
And on that note, why don’t women just leave violent relationships? The question itched at the back of my mind. I knew it wasn’t a question I was supposed to ask. I felt like an appallingly small minded and judgemental person even thinking it, but I genuinely wanted to understand.
Bloggers forum on domestic violence
The Nappy Collective had assembled experts on family violence in Australia to explain to a few dozen bloggers exactly what domestic violence is, why it is such a huge problem in Australian society and most importantly, what we can all do to stop it from happening.
Hosted by Giaan Rooney, we were privileged to hear from The Nappy Collective’s Chairperson Sandra Jacobs, 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty and Detective Superintendent Rod Jouning, Head of Sexual and Family Violence, Victorian Police.
It was shocking, saddening and inspiring. It was a very emotional evening.
So… what IS domestic violence?
Domestic violence can affect any member of a family, male or female. However, the offender is most likely to be a man and the victims are most often women and children.
Domestic Violence Victoria defines domestic violence as ‘physical assaults but also an array of power and control tactics used along in concert with one another, including:
- direct or indirect threats
- sexual assault
- emotional and psychological torment
- economic control
- property damage
- social isolation
- any behavior that causes a person to live in fear.’
Some quick stats for you:
- 1 in 3 women in Australia has experienced domestic violence
- 1 woman is killed almost every week in Australia by their partner or ex-partner
- 14 women were killed in the first 7 weeks of 2015, doubling this statistic
- the most dangerous time for a woman is when she leaves her abusive partner (one of many complex answers to the simple question, why doesn’t she just leave?).
Why is there so much violence in our community?
If you were ever under any illusion that we had achieved gender equality in Australia today, have a think about this research outcome:
At an individual level, the most consistent predictor of the use of violence among men is their agreement with sexist, patriarchal, and/or sexually hostile attitudes.
How can we change this?
It’s easy to think that we can’t change anything individually, to shrug it off with a ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’
What if I told you that YOU can help to reduce domestic violence in our community?
What if I showed you that YOU have the power to change attitudes and keep our daughters and their granddaughters safe in their own homes?
THIS is the inspiring message I left last week’s forum with:
My commitment to help end domestic violence in Australia
Domestic violence is about power and control. It is allowed to exist in our society because we don’t value women and children equally.
Because we turn a blind eye to sexist jokes, derogatory remarks and attitudes which regard women and children as property and possessions.
Because we refuse to believe that domestic violence is our problem.
We CAN change – we know this because we HAVE changed
The great news is that we can change as a society. Until the 1980s, domestic violence didn’t even exist as a concept in Australia. Legally, a husband beating his wife was an issue which didn’t go beyond the firmly closed front door. It was his legal right to discipline his wife.
In 2015 it’s a criminal offence. Men go to jail for beating their wives.
It’s time for more change
It’s not enough to lock up abusers after they’ve already destroyed lives. We need to stop the violence from happening at all.
We need to redefine the stereotypes of men and women. Men shouldn’t need to have power over a woman to feel manly. Women shouldn’t have to submit to every whim of a man to be considered feminine and sexy.
We need to send the message loud and clear: it doesn’t matter how frustrated, disenfranchised or angry you feel, it is NEVER ok to take the life of a woman or a child. As a society, we will NOT tolerate it, we will NOT excuse it.
It won’t be easy and it won’t happen because of a single event, a protest march, a hashtag, a government program or a change in law.
I’m standing up today and saying that I am willing to get feisty, I am willing to get behind this cause, I am ready to start making the changes that will lead to a society in which every person can feel safe in their own home.
Are you ready to get feisty? Are you willing to join me?
If you, or someone you care about, is experiencing domestic violence, a great place to start for resources is Domestic Violence Victoria.