David Gallant, Research Fellow, Department of Social Work, University of Melbourne.
Professor Cathy Humphreys, Professor of Social Work, University of Melbourne; Co-chair of MAEVe, Melbourne Research Alliance to End Violence Against Women and their Children.
This weekend is one of the biggest weekends on Australia’s sporting calendar with the grand finals of both the Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL) to be played.
Last year these finals attract a TV audience of more than 6.9 million. But as we head into what should be a wonderful spectacle of sport, there is a group of women and children who will be experiencing intense anxiety and nervousness across the long weekend – not because of what is happening on the field but rather because of the events that occur off the field.
They won’t be watching the TV and attending BBQs with excitement and light-hearted good humour. They will be feeling fear in anticipation of assault.
While major events like these bring us together to celebrate our Nation’s great sporting culture, there is growing evidence that big sporting events can be a time of increased risk for women and children because of men’s use of violence.
The OutLoud team ask, ‘Why aren’t more people outraged by the conduct of NRL player Matt Lodge?’ Listen below.
Just ahead of Saturday’s AFL Grand Final, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton warned that police are braced for a 20 per cent increase in family violence incidents after the game.
According to research by La Trobe University’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, domestic assaults increased by more than 40 per cent in New South Wales during the nights that the NRL State of Origin games were played compared to non-Origin nights.
Similarly, a report by VicHealth in 2011 highlighted the increase in incidents of family violence in and around major sporting events such as the AFL Grand Final, the Melbourne Cup and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.
Alcohol is almost synonymous with sporting events and Australian culture more widely, and seems to afford some men and their mates an ‘accountability free’ area where they believe their violent and abusive behaviour will be excused.
The ubiquitous nature of gambling in sport has also severely tested family relationships; creating stress, a fertile ground for family breakdown and the use of violence.
But let’s be very clear, the consumption of alcohol and problem gambling doesn’t cause men’s violence, though they can be contributing factors to the incidents of family violence.
As part of this initiative, athletes are lending their voice in the prevention of violence against women using the tag line: ‘be more than a spectator’.
The important role of the bystander in the prevention of violence is being increasingly highlighted in research. It is argued that positive bystander interventions can have a significant impact on the prevalence of violence against women.