Domestic violence is silently infecting our communities. I see many gorgeous women suffering from the effects of Domestic Violence past and present, each day in my work. I decided it’s time to speak up.

 

Did you know in Australia,

  • 1 in 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them
  • 1 in 5 women over 18 have been stalked during their lifetime
  • 1 in 5 women experienced harassment with in their workplace? (sourced White Ribbon)

 

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence refers to violence, abuse and intimidation between people who are or have been in an intimate relationship. The perpetrator uses violence to control and dominate the other person. This causes fear, physical harm and/or psychological harm and violates the others human rights.

Domestic violence can include:

  • emotional abuse
  • verbal abuse
  • financial abuse
  • psychological abuse
  • physical assault
  • sexual assault
  • isolating a woman from her friends and family
  • stopping a woman from practicing her religion.

To show you, here’s Sharon’s story. Sharon came to see me feeling anxious, down and overwhelmed and had just hit her 50’s. She wanted to get her health back on track, so she had plenty of energy to help her ageing parents, keep up her part-time job and support her 3 teen boys, one of which was doing the VCE that year and have energy over for herself and her partner.

As we spoke, she opened up about one of her teen boys pushing her into a metal pole and cracking her rib, after she had put a curfew on internet access.  And how her husband had felt she had provoked it. This was one of Sharon’s many stories, as she opened up more and more.

This is not OK.

It’s time to prevent men’s violence against women. And yes, men can be the victims of domestic violence but it’s usually from other men.

For me this says’s it all,

“Strong fathers, strong families”

 “Real men walk the talk”

It’s time to speak up and not just stand by. Time to prevent this silent epidemic of domestic violence from crippling the beautiful women in our society from fully participating in life. It has a huge impact on families, the community and the nation.

Oprah summed it up well in her 2018 Golden Globe speech – Me Too campaign.

Did you know on average it takes a victim of domestic violence 24 attempts before they finally leave?

Often the signs go unnoticed simmering in the background, for an extended period of time until things escalate and they say how did I get here, such as in the Rose Batty case.

Gas-lighting is common and often precedes emotional and physical abuse, since the woman is more likely to remain in, an abusive relationships.

Gas lighting is a form of emotional abuse where a person is manipulated repeatedly into distrusting his/her own memory or perception of events. Making targets question the very instincts that they have counted on their whole life, making them unsure of anything.

Here is a list of what domestic violence can look like on the everyday. If you see this happening to a friend, family member, work colleague –  speak up and seek help.

Domestic violence commonly involves many of the categories of abuse below –

  • Emotional abuse includes name calling, mind games; undermining parenting skills; criticising beliefs, criticising abilities, put downs; emotional withdrawal at times of need; silent treatment; using anger to contro; excessive controlling jealousy; stalking/harassment behaviour.
  • Social abuse includes being prevented from studying or advancing self/skills, denigration/put downs before family, friends or others, isolating by being obnoxious in front of friends and family – driving them away, interfering with car to control movements, phone calls monitored.
  • Spiritual abuse includes undermining spiritual beliefs/practices, use of spiritual/religious rituals to abuse, denial of access to religious practices/networks
  • Financial abuse includes controlling all finances and denying access to money, coercion to sign contracts without being an equal partner or fully informed; gambling all money and assets away leaving family destitute, overzealous scrutiny of expenditures, forced to hand over pay, dragging out family court proceedings in order to force all funds to be spent in legal costs, incurring debt and then disappearing leaving the debts to be paid by the partner left behind.
  • Physical abuse includes hitting, pushing/shoving, restraining, physical intimidation, use of body language such as standing over/invading personal space, damage to property or possessions, dragged out of bed in middle of night to perform physical tasks.
  • Sexual abuse includes being forced to perform acts which you find humiliating, forced to wear clothes which make you feel degraded, forced to be constantly sexually available no matter how tired, sick or disinterested, sexual harassment.

 

Increasingly I’m seeing domestic violence perpetrated by teenage boys, especially those addicted to computer gaming. Perhaps violent games have normalised physical, disrespectful behaviour and reinforced there are little consequences.

Violence against women starts with disrespect. When we make excuses we enable it to grow. Such as what did she do to provoke him or it’s not that bad or she’s oversensitive.

Violence is violence and it’s not OK no matter what. We have a choice in every moment. Walking away and cooling down is available to all of us.

Often when victims of violence look back they can see the signs were there very early on and have escalated to the mess that is happening today.

As adults, we have the biggest influence on what young people think. By calling out and challenging disrespect and recognising excuses, we become part of the solution and stop the cycle of violence towards women.

Actions will encourage our children’s behaviour in the future. It’s vital you set standards and ensure our children understand what’s acceptable. You don’t have to have all the answers, just be ready to explore topics together and have a conversation.

Research is clear. Violence against women starts long before intimidation or a fist is raised. It starts with attitudes and behaviours in young children, attitudes that their parents held before them and so the cycle continues.

And it’s not just warning your daughters to be careful, but also teaching your sons respect and consent.

It starts with ourselves, as parents, teachers, coaches and employers, we have a big impact on young people. We can change attitudes and behaviours bit by bit. Many voices making small changes has a big impact over time, as does consistency at home, in schools, on sport fields, in communities and our workplaces.

It starts with the way we think then with the words we use. Remember your attitudes towards situations will be absorbed and mirrored by your children.

Remember children don’t fully understand the wider context so it’s up to you to explain it to them, show and tell what’s unacceptable and what they can learn from it.

If we want to change the stats of violence against women in Australia, we have to start from the beginning. Start by reflecting on our own attitudes and behaviours and where they come from, so we can break the cycle for our children and help create a future free from gender violence and inequality.

Amen.

Julie X