opinion

'I'm fed up hearing about another woman's death': A letter begging Australian fathers to help.

Warning: this post deals with themes related to domestic violence and may be triggering for some readers. 

Right about now, I think it’s fair to say that Australians are fed up and distraught after hearing about yet another woman’s death at the hands of a man.

It’s also fair to say that nothing appears to be changing for the better. Statistics show violence against women is rising and the figures don’t matter because knowing them isn’t changing a thing.

Women And Violence: The Hidden Numbers. Post continues after video. 

I have three daughters and it’s devastating to know that at some point in their lives, my girls will most likely be exposed to some level of abuse or violence toward them at the hands of a man.

How do I know this? Because it’s happened to me. Like most women, I too am a statistic.

Molested by a strange middle aged man in a video store at age 11.

Water thrown over my head at a pub by a random middle aged male who then hurled abuse at me for no reason at age 19.

Kicked in the back by a date I rejected at age 25.

Date raped while under the influence of alcohol at 26.

Intimidated and bullied by a male at age 43.

Not to mention the countless heckles from cars and building sites by random blokes over the years probably thinking it’s harmless and funny.

Listen to Jelena Dokic tell Mia Freedman about what life was like with her father. Post continues after audio. 

For years I blamed myself for pretty much all of these incidents, be it my outfit choice, my alcohol intake or my choice in men. It seems to be the innate thing for women to do sadly.

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Telling women to alter their behaviour – to not walk alone at night, to dress more appropriately, to stay in altogether – isn’t going to change anything. Especially when so much violence towards women occurs within the home.

The only thing that’s going to stop the escalation of violence toward women in future is the way we raise our boys from within the family unit from a young age.

As a mother of girls, I wish there was more I could do. All I can do is beg fathers (or father figures) to provide the best example, through their actions, of appropriate and acceptable behaviour toward women.

This starts within the home. There is simply no other way.

Schools can only do so much. A female friend of mine, a teacher, recently told me she had a six-year-old telling her he doesn’t have to listen to her ‘because she’s a girl’.

Where would he have learned to say this? It’s pretty obvious. At home, likely from his father.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter what cultural background you’re from or what type of family unit you belong to. Children learn predominantly by example and the behaviour they’re going to exhibit later on in life is often a reflection of their early family life.

That notion can be slammed as a generalisation, for all I care. But it’s pretty obvious that if we don’t support men now in being better fathers to the younger male generation, nothing will ever change.

So this is my message to all you fathers out there. I beg you to step up and be the best dads you can be. I hope you can see the moment you hold your baby boy in your arms that you have a huge responsibility in developing his perception of women and girls.

Just imagine what a great benefit raising your boys to become men who respect women would be to society as a whole.

If you or someone you care about is living with family violence please call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Lidija Zmisa is a mum of three girls, wife and freelance writer who has been published in Papier Mache magazine and on Mamamia. She is currently writing a book for middle grade readers.

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