real life

How women can help stop the violence.

Why should women get involved in talking about domestic violence when the majority of it involves men’s violence against women? It’s the attitude of men that needs to change – so how is this a female issue?

How does it relate to you, if you’re lucky enough to be in a stable and safe relationship?

Because one woman in Australia is murdered every week by her partner or former partner. Many more are physically harmed. And even more suffer financial, emotional and verbal abuse.

Every one of us is a parent, relative or friend of someone affected by men’s violence against women – even though we might not know it.

We need to understand the signs, and we need to understand the men.

A lot of us are raising boys who need to also know the signs, and what to do if they, or their mates, are not coping in a relationship.

So, if women don’t get involved in the conversation, Australia has no hope in stopping the fatal epidemic we face. That’s something which White Ribbon Australia is addressing. WRA is a national organisation committed to ending men’s violence against women.

For too long, society blamed women for men’s behaviour; what a woman wore, how much she’d had to drink, was she alone in public after dark, did she make him angry?

White Ribbon brought the focus back to men being responsible for their own behaviour.

And now White Ribbon is acknowledging the role women can play in the conversation, by the appointment of female Advocates to work beside their male Ambassadors in raising awareness about why domestic abuse happens, and how it can be stopped.

Listen: Rosie Batty speaks to Mia Freedman on our No Filter podcast. (Post continues…)

At the crux of it all is the imbalance of power between, and perception of, men and women; which is the way the world has worked for centuries. On its website, WRA says that “gender inequality is at the core of the problem; so gender equality is the heart of the solution.”

Think about it. “Boys will be boys, “he cries like a girl”, “she hits like a man”, “she’s a tom boy” – the phrases that we grew up with, that we don’t even give a second thought to, promote gender inequality – and that gives men and women different values, and an unequal distribution of power.

But that can change, and is changing. Here’s how women can help:

  • Challenge gender stereotypes about clothing, sports, and in employment, the media, and relationships. Not only about what happens in the public realm, but in your own home, too, especially about the division of domestic labour.
  • Don’t ignore violence against women. Believe victims, and support them. WRA has some excellent tips to help you speak out when you see or hear unacceptable behaviour by a man towards a woman.
  • Promote female independence; a relationship can only be healthy and safe if it’s an equal one. Violence against women is higher in communities where there are rigid male and female “roles”, which lead to a greater sense of male ownership over female partners, a sense of entitlement about their rights, and rigid ideas about what women and girls are allowed to do.
  • Normalise gender equality. You’re the role model for your kids, so walk the talk and don’t set gendered limits for yourself. Let them know they have choices, and will be respected for them. Everyone deserves that, including boys and men.

We owe it to all the women who’ve lost their lives at the hands of someone they once loved, to have learned from their stories and do better in the future. Which is why women are inherently part of the conversation about the violence they see and experience.

It’s a program I believe in so much that I’ve become a WRA Advocate myself.

It takes all of us to stand up, speak out, and act, if we are to reduce the statistics and save lives. #ittakesallofus

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.