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Mate, we need to talk. Ambassador Andrew Swan calls on men to stand up and speak out after the murder of Eurydice Dixon

Mate, we need to talk.

I’m guessing you don’t need me to tell you what happened to Eurydice Dixon. The whole nation seems to be in a state of shock, and rightfully so.

Everybody has their own way of understanding, coping with, and responding to tragedy, and that’s OK. However, of all the responses we’ve seen in recent days, only one can actually prevent future tragedies like this from occurring. That is, for us – the everyday men of Australia – to stand up, speak out and act to prevent men’s violence against women.

Don’t agree?  Well, let me ask you a few questions:

When was the last time you felt afraid, powerless or unsafe?

In the street? At work? At home? Anywhere?

This week? This month? This year? Ever?

Believe me, if it has ever happened to you, you’d know.

Imagine if you were made to feel afraid, powerless or unsafe regularly enough that you planned for it, just in case. For example, by carrying your keys in one hand and phone in the other as you walk home, uncertain of who you might encounter. Sound familiar?

Violence occurs when someone is hurt or made to feel afraid, powerless or unsafe. It can be physical, emotional or psychological. Anyone can experience it and it happens across communities, ages, cultures and sexes.

No one is immune and it’s more likely to happen at home than in public.

While it’s true that most men are not violent, abusive or disrespectful, we have all seen and will know those who are. To stop violence against women, well-meaning men must do more than merely avoid perpetrating violence themselves.

If we do nothing, nothing will change.

We must pursue equitable and respectful relationships. We must challenge the violence of other men. We must demonstrate that being ‘a man’ means being someone who lives by the values of respect, inclusion and equality. Should we fail or refuse to do this, we will not be perpetrators but perpetuators who chose to let violence continue.

Changing attitudes and behaviour will take time but if we succeed it will be time well spent, and lives saved.

So, what small act can you do, starting right now, to make a difference? To begin with, do what most of us have done all our life: love, respect and protect women. If you can do that, then try to do the following:

Be aware…

  • Of the facts. Know the facts about violence against women.
  • Of yourself. Have the confidence to explore your own actions, beliefs, and opinions, confront your faults and make a plan to improve.
  • Of victim-blaming. Learn what it is and how to recognise it. Tell others.

Speak up…

When it matters. Call out bad behaviour and safely challenge others who overstep the line.

Talk with women and girls…

  • About their experiences. Be willing to listen and learn.
  • About your own behaviour. You may not see the impact that your words and deeds are having.

Talk with men and boys…

  • About the problem. Learn how the issue touches their lives.
  • About how to respond. Empower them to call it out.
  • Early, and often. Mentor and teach one another about how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women.

If you question what impact any of the above actions can have, give one of them a try today and see for yourself. I did, and the response indicated that I still have work to do. When it comes to tackling such a big problem, we all have work to do.

Everybody has their own way of understanding, coping with, and responding to tragedy. But you have a choice. You can remain in the silent majority of men who disapprove of violence but do little to prevent it. Or, you can stand up, speak out and act to help all Australians live a better life.

Mate, it’s up to you.

Take the White Ribbon Oath today.

Author Andrew Swan is a White Ribbon Australia Ambassador and active member of our Victoria State Committee.

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