One in three girls worldwide will, in her lifetime, suffer violence directed at her simply because she is female.
Violence against women is not just a women’s issue because that woman is someone’s grandmother, mother, sister, daughter, other family member or close friend.
And the myth that ‘there is nothing we can do to stop violence against women’ is just that – a myth.
Some people think that rape and domestic violence are inevitable – because men are just ‘born that way’ and violence against women is the product of biology or genetics; or because those people who use violence are mentally ill and cannot change.
However research shows that violence against women is the product of learned attitudes and norms, and social inequalities.
The vast majority of violent men are not suffering from mental illness and could not be described as psychopaths. Most abusers would appear to be respectable people who are very much in control. They are represented in all occupations and social classes and the violence is usually manifest only within their relationship with their partner and children.
So why don’t women ‘just remove themselves from abusive relationships’. Well it’s not that simple.
There are many reasons women stay in abusive relationships. They include fear that the violence will escalate, financial dependence, social stigma, lack of self-confidence, isolation, religious and moral values, love and commitment and concern for children, family pressures and lack of community support, including affordable accommodation.
A man who is using violence against his female partner typically uses a range of strategies to encourage her compliance and dependence, such as monitoring her movements, destroying her self-esteem, and encouraging her to blame herself for the abuse. These dynamics too make it hard to leave abusive relationships.
And although I have used the term ‘man’ don’t for a moment think violence only occurs in heterosexual households – it occurs in same sex households too.
It is never the fault of the abused woman. Responsibility for violence must rest solely with the abuser. Most abused people try to do everything they can to please their partner and avoid further violent episodes.
Violence does not only happen to a certain sort of woman. Research has repeatedly shown that violence crosses all boundaries and happens happen to women of all religious beliefs, level of education, sexual orientation, occupation, community position, cultural/ethnic background, and family situations.
In Australia, violence is the biggest cause of injury or death for women between 18 and 45. One in three Australian women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. Among women under 45, intimate partner violence contributes more to their poor health, disability, and death than any other risk factor, including obesity and smoking.
White Ribbon Australia is uncovering the nation’s most shameful secret; the extent of male violence against women. White Ribbon is the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end men’s violence against women and girls and to promote gender equity, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity.
As a part of this global movement, White Ribbon Australia, works towards creating an Australian society in which all women can live in safety, free from violence and abuse.
It is Australia’s only national, male-led violence prevention organisation, and works to examine the root causes of gender-based violence, challenge behaviours and create a cultural shift that leads us to a future without men’s violence against women. Through education, awareness-raising, preventative programs, partnerships and creative campaigns, it is highlighting the positive role men play in preventing men’s violence against women and inspiring them to be part of this social change.
Chairman of White Ribbon Australia, Lt. Gen Ken Gillespie (Rtd) said, “The high incidence of male violence against women in this country is very alarming. Not only do one in three women over the age of 15 report having experienced physical or sexual violence at some time in their lives, violence is a major cause of homelessness for women and children and costs the economy US$14.7 billion annually in Australia.
“It is important to understand how every act of male violence against women can have serious effects on women, families and society as a whole. Male violence against women can happen anywhere and can take many forms; including physical, sexual, emotional and financial violence and has a profound cost across the personal, social and economic sphere.
“The issue of male violence against women is real, it’s worrying and, in many instances, remains hidden. Every woman, and man, can make a stand and speak up about the issue.”
As part of their work, White Ribbon Australia have launched a new TV commercial Australia, land of secrets to give a voice to the everyday experiences of violence that occur all around Australia. These acts, from inappropriate behaviour or harassment to physical and emotional abuse, are part of a culture of violence in Australia.
Lt. Gen Gillespie (Rtd) said, “Australia, land of secrets calls on men, women and the whole community to help uncover Australia’s secrets, raise awareness and stop violence against women.”
Today, across Australia, thousands of people are taking the White Ribbon oath; “I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. This is my oath”.
Whether we are men or women, we can all help put a stop to violence against women. So, please don’t be afraid to stand up and speak out.