Trigger warning: This post deals with domestic violence and may be distressing for some readers.
Sometimes something is so horrible, so confronting and so unjust, that we pretend it isn’t real. We try to ignore it, if we can.
May is domestic violence prevention month and it’s time to face the scourge of violence against women and children happening right here in our streets, our towns, our nation.
It’s been in the media a lot lately – the escalating number of women and children who have lost their lives from violence by men. So many women, so often.
Those horrific stories have left the community shocked and outraged. But the stories that make the news are just a fraction of what’s going on. Domestic violence is insidious, pervasive and mostly hidden.
The reported statistics – themselves bound to underestimate the real extent of the problem – are that one in five women have experienced domestic violence by a partner since the age of 15. In Australia, two-third of all women who are murdered are killed by their husband or live-in partner.
But domestic violence is more than just physical or sexual abuse, it’s also about control. Domestic violence is about social, financial, emotional and verbal manipulation and control to make women powerless.
It scares me that domestic violence is often so hard to redress, until it is too late. After years of abuse, a victim will often be isolated from their friends and family, cut off from financial support and emotionally dependent on the person who has manipulated them into the situation. It’s so difficult to get out.
The work of organisations such as White Ribbon, encouraging boys and men to lead social change in the anti-domestic violence movement is so important. Because of the prevalence of abuse in our society, we are going to need a significant cultural shift if we are going to curb domestic violence.
Many men are aware of domestic violence occurring within their communities and I applaud all those men who’ve stood strong amongst their peers to stop violence against women. And I encourage all men to do so – whether at the pub, at work or in home, it’s vital we end this pattern by ‘breaking the silence’ as Tom Meagher (husband of Jill Meagher, who was tragically killed in 2012) recently wrote about in his essay, ‘The Danger of the Monster Myth’.
The powerful and brave words by Meagher speak of the problems we have with society’s perception of violence against women. He says we need to end the ‘social normalisation of violence against women’, as he encourages men to speak out when they hear their male friends encouraging sexist behaviour.