It’s funny how statistics don’t mean much until someone you love becomes one.
Yesterday, my 23-year-old brother finished Uni for the day and went to get some lunch.
He was stopped in a car park with his window down, when a man approached his car.
The man was clearly in a rage. He started yelling about his own car, which had been parked down the street.
He yelled: “Was it you who damaged my car?”
And before my brother could finish his sentence – “I didn’t do…” – the man punched him square in the face.
My brother looked down, shocked, at the blood that was pouring all over his jumper and jeans.
He ended up spending the afternoon in hospital, getting stitches in his busted lip. To make matters worse, the cut was such that it made more sense for the doctor to perform the stitches with no anesthetic.
At first, I was astounded.
It was 2pm on a Monday. What compels someone to inflict physical violence upon another human being? Why would somebody do that? How angry does somebody have to be?
Australia has launched a campaign against the coward punch. Post continues below.
And then something happened. The exact same thing that happened when I was assaulted.
I have written previously about an experience I had a few years ago, where I was attacked by a stranger in broad daylight.
In the days that followed, when news of the event traveled to friends, family and even colleagues, I had a realisation.
Mine was a story that so many women had.
From my colleague who had been attacked at the same age walking down the street, to a friend's mother who had been assaulted by a man hiding in the bushes, and 40 years later remembered it like it was yesterday. Even my mother had a story.
And yesterday afternoon, when I discussed the event to my colleagues and friends, it gave way to a flood of horrific stories.
"A friend of mine got stabbed while being a bouncer at an 18th."
"My brother got punched in the back of the head. New Years Eve. He was only like 17 or 18 at the time."
"A good friend was walking home at about 8pm and was hit on the back of the head. He was concussed, and had his wallet and phone stolen. They left him on the side of road. He suffered PTSD afterwards and developed anxiety and depression."
"A friend was punched in the nose at a train station. He lost his sense of smell. He spent quite a bit of time in hospital."
"My younger brother has been punched in the face, or has had other men threaten to punch him, many times over the years. He is in his early 20’s and often works overnight at his job at a hospital. Men who have hit him said it’s because he’s tall, he is just over six foot six, and for some reason that brings out a lot of aggression around him. Even though he is very kind and completely non-confrontational."
"I was at a club, talking to my girlfriend, and a guy came out of nowhere and punched me the eye. I had a black eye for weeks."
"A guy I went to school with was bashed in Bondi and left to die. He was in a coma for days."
My dad also had a story. At 20 he was standing in a nightclub in Sydney, and next thing he knew he was surrounded by people lifting him up off the ground.
A man had come up behind him, and with no provocation at all, had punched him in the back of the head.
I knew, before this event, that men were more likely than women to experience violence in public places. I knew that young men, between the ages of 15 and 24, experience the highest rates of assault. But perhaps I was imagining a one-off coward's punch, or a drunken brawl. I had no idea how many of these stories existed.
So many men, on a daily basis, fall victim to the actions of violent, angry men.
This is not a competition of victimhood. It's not men versus women. Because we are all falling victim to the same thing.
Toxic masculinity hurts all of us.
So, to the men whose stories I have just learned, I am sorry for the pain you have suffered. I know what it's like to have your bodily autonomy compromised, and lose the sense of safety you once took for granted.
Just like domestic violence and sexual assault, physical assault - directly or indirectly - affects all of us.