On Tuesday May 7, I was impressed to see an eloquent article by Essendon footballer Zach Merrett; where he discussed the issue of gender inequality, on and off the field. The key statement that stuck with me from Merrett’s article was the following: “It was then I realised ‘playing like a girl’ was a shocking insult, but not to the boy who was copping the abuse. No, it was an insult to these two girls, who had to deal with the negative connotations around the slogan every time they played.”
His call for action and change left me feeling uplifted and positive about our game and had me thinking, AFL is really making a stand against sexism and I’m proud to be an avid AFL supporter.
Spoiler alert, it didn’t last long.
Just three days later, on May 10, in the Sydney vs. Essendon match, Sydney footballer, Dane Rampe told an umpire he “talks like a little girl” after he didn’t hear a call to play on. Yet, I’m sure you’ve heard the controversy this week regarding Rampe’s climbing the goal post, as Mark Robinson said on AFL 360, on the evening of May 16, “It’s the biggest issue in AFL this year!” Excuse me Robbo, but is a player climbing a goal post a bigger and more serious issue than casual sexism in our game?
Casual sexism needs to be called out. We need to act now and stop turning a blind eye. Comments such as these are unacceptable and I will not remain quiet. No, I will cause a fuss, I will make a stand, because all women, everywhere, deserve to be treated with the same respect and courtesy as men. Of course, this issue of casual sexism is not limited to AFL, or any sport. It happens in the workplace, we see it in popular culture, we see it in families and groups of friends.
I was pleased to see that the AFL took Rampe’s comment seriously and fined him $10,000. In saying this, I’d much prefer to see a change in culture and behaviour, rather than simply being reactionary and providing consequences for actions.
I encourage men to follow the good examples we have out there, the Zach Merretts of the world, let’s say. But more than that, I expect men to call out poor behaviour when they see it. I am sick and tired of men telling me they are a ‘good bloke’ and that they respect women. If you’re going to talk the talk, I expect you to walk the walk. Be an active bystander, ensure you are not laughing at sexist remarks or changing the subject because you feel uncomfortable standing up for what you know is right. We can’t keep shying away from conversations because they are taboo. If we don’t have these vital conversations about equality, nothing will change.
I stand with Zach. “This is about more than footy.”
This week, Australia was rocked by a another tragic event. The brutal rape and murder of Palestinian exchange student Aiia Masarwe in Melbourne’s North. Once again, a young woman was attacked while making her way home.
Yet as shocking as Aiia’s story is, it is not an isolated incident. News stories just like hers are all too familiar and young women have been warned about them since adolescence. Stories like those of Eurydice Dixon, who was raped and murdered in June last year on her way home walking through a park, or Jill Meagher, who was attacked walking home from a pub in 2012.
But not every case of violence receives the same attention as Aiia. Every week, a woman will be killed by a current or former partner. One in five women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. 85% of Australian women have been sexually harassed. Many of these women’s stories do not receive the same attention as Aiia’s but are just as tragic.
Young women across the country hear these stories as cautionary tales about letting your guard down. But Aiia’s story shouldn’t be part of a narrative about the importance of women being constantly on their guard. The safety of women should not depend on their constant vigilance and good luck.
Aiia Masarwe. Photo courtesy of Mamamia.
Instead, it should remind us how dire the situation currently is. Now is a moment to reflect on violence against women and how we understand it. Because violence against women is not just a problem for women, it is a problem for society, and it is time for the violent men to be held to account.
It’s important to remember that men’s violence against women is part of a spectrum. While these news stories provide particularly shocking examples of this violence, less visible harm is perpetrated against women every day. Sexual harassment, abuse and stalking happens continuously, and it often happens in silence.
Not all men are violent. Yet, that doesn’t mean those men who aren’t don’t feed into a culture that enables and encourages violent men. Even if you would never actually harm a woman, every man has witnessed a man stepping over a line. It might be a joke that goes too far, a friend that is a little too handsy, or a woman who is a little too drunk to fully consent. Excuses are no longer good enough.
All of these actions normalise a culture of disrespect and violence against women, and it has to stop. Sons cannot continue being raised on the message that it’s okay to disrespect women or that those behaviours are acceptable. It must stop because women should be able to get home at night without fearing for their lives.
All of us have seen inappropriate behaviour towards women and often stayed silent because we couldn’t find our voice. It can be a difficult thing to do. But we have to do better. Women like Aiia, Eurydice and Jill deserve better, as do the countless women who suffer violence without being shown on the news.
Making things better begins with men taking responsibility for their actions and understanding how their treatment of women can reverberate in society. It starts with deciding that we cannot continue to live in a society that consistently marginalising women. It starts with speaking up.
If you or someone you know is in need of support related to sexual assault or domestic violence, please call 1800 RESPECT (737 732). If in danger please, call 000.
These disturbing findings come from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Fourth National Survey on Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces. The survey provides insight into the scale and nature of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, and is particularly timely given the widespread attention the #MeToo movement has generated.
Some industries had higher rates of sexual harassment, with 81% of employees in the information, media and telecommunications industry experiencing sexual harassment in the past five years. Other industries withhigh rates included arts and recreation services; electricity, gas, water and waste services; and retail.
Workplace responses to sexual harassment
With such alarmingly high rates of sexual harassment in our workplaces, it’s imperative for workplaces to have a culture of zero tolerance of sexual harassment, and appropriate supports and procedures in place for people to report incidents. However, it seems that many workers are not comfortable reporting incidents to their management. Less than 1 in 5 people who experienced sexual harassment at work made a formal report or complaint, with most people refraining because they thought it would be seen as an overreaction or because it waseasier to keep quiet.
When people did report incidents of sexual harassment, the responses were often inappropriate. 45% of people said no changes occurred at their workplace, and in 19% of cases there were no consequences for the perpetrator. People who reported put their own careers at risk and experienced negative consequences, with 19% labelled a troublemaker, 18% ostracised, victimised or ignored by colleagues, and 17% resigned.
It is critical that workplaces respond appropriately to reports of sexual harassment. The consequences of failing to do so can be significant. For example, in two cases in 2015 and 2016 employers were ordered to pay more than $300,000 to employees who experienced sexual harassment. Cases of sexual harassment are also a reputational risk for businesses, as demonstrated by many of the highly publicised #MeToo cases.
Preventing and responding to sexual harassment in the workplace
Human resources practitioners are increasingly recognizing the importance of having robust policies and procedures in place to address sexual harassment in the workplace. With the spotlight firmly on sexual harassment, taking steps to address it is not only the ethically right thing to do, but it has also become essential business practice. There are tools available to assist businesses to address sexual harassment, such as White Ribbon’sWorkplace Accreditation Program which provides organisations with a holistic and structured approach. The Program guides workplaces to bring about cultural change to show zero tolerance for violence against women. Workplaces are equipped with the tools to assess the risk of violence (including sexual harassment) and to respond appropriately when incidents occur.
The results of theFourth National Survey on Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces clearly show that sexual harassment is a widespread and multifaceted issue in Australian workplaces. The Australian Human Rights Commission is currently conducting an inquiry into sexual harassment which is likely to recommend actions that employers should take.
Workplaces are critical sites for preventing and responding to sexual harassment. Bringing about the cultural change required to eliminate sexual harassment is a large and difficult task, but there are tools available to assist employers such as White Ribbon’s Workplace Accreditation Program. Australia’s high rates of sexual harassment in workplaces mean we all have a responsibility to stand up, speak out and act. Including employers.
Over the past few months White Ribbon Australia has come under some criticism as a social change movement to prevent men’s violence against women. This is not a new state of affairs as a vocal minority have often taken issue with our work to engage men in preventing men’s violence against women in Australia.
However we wanted to take the time to thank you publicly for your feedback. We are heartened by your passion in the movement to end men’s violence against women in Australia, and we are on thesame mission with you. We would be concerned if we were not held accountable to our mistakes.
The recent decision by our former CEO to remove the statement of support for women’s autonomy in their reproductive choices can be seen as such an example. The decision was made by the former CEO who had the view to engage in a wider community consultation on this and other policy matters. Following feedback from both White Ribbon staff and the wider public the position statement was reinstated, and the White Ribbon Board confirmed that this position was never open to consultation and should not have been removed.
As an ever-evolving social change movement committed to ending men’s violence against women, we are open to criticism and welcome it. We have always listened to criticism and, where criticism has been valid, used it to strengthen our work. With sincerity we want you to talk to us, and even criticise us, but don’t stop supporting us.
The crucial work of engaging men
As you may be aware one in three women in Australia has experienced men’s violence and on average one woman each week is killed by a male partner or ex-partner. One in two women in Australia has experienced sexual harassment. Not captured statistically is a genuine picture of the extent women experience intimidation and intrusion from men known and unknown to them. It is important that we engage men in this issue as the change must come from men. We must prevent those who would be the perpetrators of abuse from ever becoming so through a campaign to raise awareness, educate and engage men to reflect on this issue.
Since foundation in 2003 our campaigning has been highly successful in putting the issue of men’s violence against women firmly into the public consciousness. We are a large movement to engage men with the issue, which over the 15 years it has existed has grown at such an exponential rate that has at times presented challenges to channel this in the best possible way at all times.
We do not shy away where we have been wrong. However this shouldn’t take away from the vast amount of good work that we have done and continue to do. We want to keep doing this work, and we want to always continue getting stronger. We can show that we welcome criticism and have used criticism to strengthen our work
However, other criticisms over recent months can be seen to be uninformed and misleading.
There is a misconception that we are a movement solely for men. Our Ambassador program serves to enlist committed men through a thorough recruitment and vetting process designed to ensure genuine, knowledgeable and active men can join the organisation in a role to drive the movement forward. But we are a partnership of men and women which is reflected in our side by side Ambassador and Advocate programs. Our Advocate program provides women with an equal platform to engage men with the issue. We work closely with much of the DFV sector and are informed by the long line of feminists that came before us. We recognise our presence owes to the tireless work of female campaigners throughout history.
We do not claim to be perfect or have every answer, but we are deeply committed to continuing progress in this matter. We are a movement to make women’s safety a man’s issue too. We are founded on the very premise that there needs to be deep cultural change amongst some of the structures of socialisation that enable the gendered drivers of violence and abuse of women.
We are a large, coordinated and coherent organisation, of men and women in partnership, working together to engage men on the issue to prevent violence against women. Whilst we want to see more refuge space and treatment services for victims and perpetrators, what we really want is to see the need for these services subside. We believe that without prevention there is no cure.
Standing firm in our mission
Violence against women can and should be prevented before it occurs. This is done by addressing the underlying factors that cause the problem such asrigid gender norms and inequality. Preventative actions benefit, but are separate from, responses to violence. However, both forms of action are required to reduce violence over time.
We work to promote the mass social reflection needed to wade through the slow and arduous process of meaningful cultural change over generations to stop the issue at the source. This movement has been highly successful and can continue to get stronger. Whilst we don’t get everything right all the time, we listen and we learn. Criticise us when we may divert, but to stop supporting us would be regressive. It would be an immense loss if this part of the movement was absent.
We occupy a place in the movement that has for too long been absent– engaging the broad population of men to address the issue of men’s violence against women. It has been the missing piece. No other organisation can claim to do this to the extent White Ribbon does. We are a genuine whole of community movement. At the end of November we were in government departments and corporate headquarters, at the same time as we were marching through public parks and speaking to students in schools right the way across Australia. We were at sports games in elite level and grassroots clubs. We were in police stations, workers clubs, defence bases, community centres, supermarkets, and businesses of all shapes and sizes. We are always there to say the very same thing: men’s violence against women is a major issue in Australia and we are not going to tolerate it.
Without our movement many men who would never have engaged with the issue are told about thescale and impact of men’s violence against women, and begin to learn about men’s violence against women in a way that they would not otherwise have considered. It is this which will move Australia towards lasting social change.
But we are so much more than what you can see on White Ribbon Day. As a staff team we work day in day out running programs in schools, guiding workplaces towards cultural change, educating sports clubs, working with fathers, and raising awareness in remote or diverse communitiesright across the country throughout the entire year. We build on and improve our work every year to reach more people, to change their communities, and make Australia a safer country to live for all.
My mother was devastated by domestic violence and abuse for the first ten years of my life.
Myself, my elder sister and my two younger brothers were also victims of domestic violence, abuse and neglect. By the age of ten, domestic violence in the familial setting had been our constant. Sometime later, myself and my two younger brothers were placed, without notice, into an orphanage.
These childhood experiences of mine had an astonishing effect on my life. As a result, I am a male and I’m a feminist. A passionate one. A feminist acquaintance of mine for whom I’d performed mentoring work, once challenged me to ‘own your feminism’. I’d vacillated for years. But I finally came to understand how I felt about feminism after reflecting on my youngest childhood experience of patriarchal formation and expression.
In the school yard
So, I was not yet 5 and was standing with other boys sorting it all out on our first day of school. At some stage, one boy exclaims, ‘Don’t touch girls. You’ll get a disease and if you get the disease and touch another boy, you’ll spread it’.
The incident and the words are etched in my mind because they were so deplorably reflective of the disrespect that was on auto-play at home. Throughout my schooling, I saw that sentiment burgeon and play out year-upon-year in boys’ behaviour until, during pre-pubescence, that anti-girl disrespect filtered and manifested into dehumanised, degrading contempt.
All of it, cementing toxic masculine culture and showing just how cheaply, shallow and self-serving boys saw girls. All I saw was beautiful, feminine hearts, skipping and bouncing, pig tails and curls innocently intertwined with optimism and an ignorance of the looming darkness of pubescent years in front of them, become the dehumanised prey of the male conquest, possession and disposal game. A game only boys could win and destined to victimise every girl who innocently wandered into its path. And the more enlightened I became to this culture to which I, fortunately, became isolated from due to my trauma and was a bystander to whether I liked it or not, the more my heart broke for girls.
Along that journey of discovering that unhealthy masculinity is a ‘thing’ and that I was being confronted with its toxicity 24/7, I came to realise in my late 40’s that I have a voice in the domestic violence space.
It’s my mother’s voice and all those other women who have lost their lives to domestic violence.
And as a male, I was also confronted to realise, plus or minus, that there is no more powerful voice of advocacy, support or experience than from a feminist bloke who lived through almost every facet of domestic violence, owns the responsibility of acknowledging the issue as a male problem and equally acknowledges that blokes are the only ones that can remediate the issues. And as a bloke with all of these things, I realised that my commitment to being my mum’s and other women’s voice, needed a platform.
Glenn Buesnel-May, White Ribbon Ambassador, and Nick Mazzarella, Director at White Ribbon Australia.
I had constantly checked the whole domestic violence landscape through which to share my experience, perspectives and advocacy of women’s human rights. All the organisational players, all the agencies, government and private, in the space. One day, a mate rang me and asked if I’d support his nomination to become an Ambassador in an organisation that both INVITED and EQUIPPED male voices to advocate and support women in the fight against domestic violence and violence against women.
And that organisation was White Ribbon.
I’d found a platform, and was ready to use it
I quickly fitted in. In fact, I was on my feet within weeks with my first speaking gig. It was intimidating in the lead up and my PTSD-borne anxiety was challenging my ability and willingness to speak to a crowd about an extremely private set of experiences. But then, I thought of my mum and a number of friends who were relatively recent victims.
As I stood at that first event and uttered the beginning sentiments of my past and redemptive present, I felt the wings of those silenced voices lift and propel me. I stared in shock as the whole audience, some shedding tears and others beaming with broad smiles, stood and applauded. My key themes of, ‘Good men running towards the gunfire’, ‘You’ll get through this’, and, ‘Be the voice of the victimised and vulnerable’, seemed to resonate. So too, my final exhortation for all men to take responsibility, to take ownership and to take the cruel burden from women who’ve been foisted with the responsibility of defending themselves from domestic violence. For me, I saw it as my responsibility to stand up and speak out and the White Ribbon ethos enabled me to do just that.
Equally important for me was the foundational commitment of White Ribbon’s commitment towards ‘Primary Prevention’, which when I talk about it or think about it, immediately evokes that 5-year old’s school-yard exposure to the pollution of male sentiment towards women.
But along with my newfound platform, my eyes were opened equally to the sometimes-complex interplay between the agencies dedicated to the issues of domestic violence and violence towards women. I was confronted by the politics. I was also confounded by the very natural (and human!) position dynamics of the feminist movement. The different colours and perspectives, foci and passions, whilst still aligned with what one could safely say are foundational principles upon which feminism has developed, sometimes idiosyncratically stood at odds with the White Ribbon mission. And I had to become comfortable that there were frictions and antagonisms that would distract my focus, but equally, I needed to became comfortable with those differences, and resting on the truth that the source of the passions of such a diverse collection of agencies, organisations and voices was decency and respect, and they are marching to the beat of the same drum.
Where I’m at now
And so, with eyes wide open on my experiences and their meanings, my broadening of sober wisdom and passion for understanding the issues of human rights from a feminine perspective in all its glorious complexity and colour, I declared, as my wonderful, feminist friend exhorted me…
I am a feminist.
And I have White Ribbon to thank for giving me the platform, the passion and the voice to declare that in doing my little bit to bring justice, decency and respect to women who have been victimised and those at risk of becoming victims, of an insidious cultural malaise.
And to never forget that that voice is my mother’s.
You may have heard of the term ‘bystander’ before, but what does being an “active bystander” mean?
Being an active bystandermeans seeing a situation unfolding and doing something about it. Taking action. Not just standing by. It means effectively (and safely) intervening when you see someone looking uncomfortable or if they’re in danger.
The opposite of an active bystander means seeing a situation unfold and doing nothing about it when you can. An inactive bystander or witness, if you will. And being inactive is more common than you’d think.
A term known as the ‘bystander effect’was coined to describe this very social phenomenon.
Kitty was a 28 year-old woman working at a bar in Queens. One night after a shift, a man named Winston Moseley followed her outside her apartment and stabbed her 14 times. After walking away and leaving Kitty for dead, Moseley came back and stabbed her several more times until she died, after no one came to her aid.
Reportedly, 38 of her neighbours witnessed the attack, hearing her cries for help (the number has been debated in subsequent years) but failed to step in and help her.
After this tragic incident, social psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley popularized the term ‘bystander effect’ that describes situations just like this.
The first is due to adiffusion of responsibility. This means that, in the presence of many other people, there is no pressure for any one person to respond. When there are many witnesses, individuals don’t feel the responsibility to act, since the responsibility is thought to be shared among all of the witnesses present.
The second reason is due to social influence and conformity. As individuals, we monitor the behaviour of those around us to determine how to act because of the need to behave in socially acceptable ways. This can mean that when other witnesses fail to react, individuals take this as a signal that a response is not needed.
As a functioning society, we have a responsibility to take care of each other. This starts at an individual level with separate people standing up and speaking out for their fellow human beings.
But, it’s important to have the skills to be able to safely intervene. You now know what being an active bystander is, you just need to know what to do if you ever find yourself in that situation.
What can I do to be an active bystander?
If you see someone being harassed, and you feel safe to do so, step in and offer assistance. This is especially important when the person in danger is part of an oppressed or minority groups including, women, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Taking action can look like many things. It could mean:
Saying something to the perpetrator to diffuse the situation
Showing the perpetrator that you’re there and watching what’s going on
Saying something to the people beside you about what you’re seeing (loud enough for the assailant to hear)
Pretending that you know the person being harassed or starting a conversation with them so they’re not alone.
From big things to smaller things, showing solidarity with the person experiencing harassment makes all the difference.
In March 2018, the Australian government announced legislation entitling workers to take five days of unpaid domestic violence leave per year. This provision is a positive step in recognising that domestic violence is a workplace issue, but the lack of paid leave fails to address the financial burden placed on victims.
What kind of domestic violence leave is currently offered?
In July, New Zealand passed legislation granting ten days paid leave. This is what was called for by the Australian Council of Trade Unions in theirsubmissionto the Fair Work Commission.
Many Australian workplaces already offer significantly more than the national standard. Surf Coast Shire Councilset a global precedent in 2010 by offering 20 days paid leave to victims of domestic violence. Since then, some workplaces have expanded provision to include uncapped leave, paid leave per incident, accompanying financial support and assistance with accommodation. Some have even extended paid leave to staff members supporting family members, friends or colleagues who are victims of domestic violence.
Why is domestic violence leave important?
Experiencing domestic violence is a deeply traumatic and stressful time in a person’s life. Given that 2 in 3 women experiencing violence from a current partner are working, employers have the capacity to provide critical support to affected employees.
Accessing paid leave allows employees to take time out to deal with the significant physical, emotional, psychological, legal and practical consequences of domestic violence. This includes accessing medical care and counselling, meeting with police and solicitors, attending court, finding and moving in to new accommodation, and arranging new schools or childcare for children.
These are often costly and time consuming processes. Many victims end up exhausting their other leave allocations and face losing their job. Coupled with the fact that financial abuse is experienced in the majority of abusive relationships, too many victims are forced to choose between accessing support and financial security.
Not all victims choose to leave a violent relationship, but for those who want to, cost presents a significant barrier. The Australian Council of Trade Unions research showed it costs $18,000 and takes 141 hours, almost all during business hours, to escape an abusive relationship.
Retaining a job provides financial and social independence for women experiencing violence, which can make it easier for them to leave.
How does providing domestic violence leave affect workplaces?
Investing in employee well being is both the right thing to do and is good for business.
Providing domestic violence leave raises awareness of the issue, reduces stigma, and demonstrates care for staff. The offer of leave also increases the likelihood of an employee disclosing, providing the opportunity for workplaces to further support them to stay safe while working and to get help before the situation escalates and becomes more dangerous.
Through supporting victims of violence to remain in their job, your organisation benefits from higher employee retention rates and improved productivity. Externally, reputation as an employer of choice and responsible corporate citizen is enhanced, attracting quality talent and loyal customers.
Concerns about what it would cost businessesto providing paid domestic violence leave are offset by benefits and mitigated by low uptake. It is estimated that 1.5% of female employees and 0.3% of male employees are likely to utilise provisions each year, with wage payouts equivalent to 0.02% of existing payrolls. The cost to employers of offering domestic violence leave are therefore minimal, but the impacts can be life-changing for staff who need it.
Beyond domestic violence leave
Providing paid leave is just one way that employers can support staff members affected by domestic violence. To effectively respond to the issue, a comprehensive organisational response is required.
It is important to create a workplace culture that reassures victims that it is both safe and worthwhile to disclose an experience of domestic violence. Staff need to know that they will be believed and appropriately supported, trust that their story will remain confidential and not fear adverse consequences for their careers.
A strong policy framework outlining entitlements including leave, referral pathways for counselling and support services, flexible work options and workplace safety planning provides the foundation for workplace responses to victims. This needs to be reinforced through clear leadership commitment, informative communication about the issue and training to equip managers to respond appropriately.
I have had the privilege of working in the mining industry for 30 years.
There are many things that have changed during my time in mining, but there is one thing I am most proud of and happy to see – mining has never been more diverse.
It is full of men, women, fathers, husbands, wives and mothers, people from different countries, varying education backgrounds and religious beliefs. It is not, contrary to the stereotype, an industry full of rough and aggressive men who use physical intimidation to get what they want.
Of course, this stereotype isn’t unique to mining. In many respects, it has been ingrained in the mythology of what it means to be an Australian, to be a ‘real man’.
The typecasting of Australian men as a ‘tough tradie’ is often exploited and reinforced by advertising and the media by portraying men in stand over positions with a menacing look.
It is not only wrong, but dangerous to portray that a true blue Aussie man must be tough, intimidating and get angry when he doesn’t get what he wants. Glorifying male aggression and dominance as being what ‘real men’ do perpetuates and normalises violence in our communities.
White Ribbon Australia is a national organisation which challenges this stereotype and champions the important role men play alongside women in preventing domestic violence. I have supported White Ribbon since 2014 and was proud to become a White Ribbon Ambassador in 2017.
Fortescue is proud to be part of the many organisations aiming to become a White Ribbon Australia Accredited Workplace. The Workplace Accreditation Program targets both men and women and empowers them as active bystanders to ‘be the change’. This is an important step in Fortescue’s commitment to ending domestic violence as we accept our responsibility as an industry leader on important issues such as family violence.
During my career, I have seen instances that I am not proud of, but overwhelmingly, I have worked with people committed to making our industry and our community safer. Today, I am proud to stand alongside men and women, united in the belief that good men, ‘real men’, cannot and do not sit on the sidelines while those they love are at risk of harm.
According to the latest data fromThe Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1 in 4 women (2.2 million) have experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous partner since the age of 15, and 1 in 6 women (1.6 million) have experienced physical and/ or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner since the age of 15. As a father of two girls, this fills me with fear and so much rage I want to scream at the world.
Because of this I constantly think to myself, how can I help prevent them from becoming victims of this silent epidemic? Yes, silent, because despite living in the 21st century, the supposed era of information, there is still a lot of secrecy around this issue.
As a parent, I see it as my duty and obligation to educate my daughters in a way that they will never accept any kind of abuse, let alone from a partner, the person that is supposed to love and cherish them above all. So, what do I do? Well, it’s all about the little things.
Break down traditional stereotypes
First of all, both my wife and I set an example for them of equality. By having a healthy relationship, where communication, respect and equality are key. We share and rotate between the different house hold tasks. Also, in our house dad does not ‘baby sit’ you, he parents you!
Why is this necessary? Even though we have made progress, we still live in a society where strong sexist stereotypes around the role and expectations of a man and a woman still exist. Breaking down these stereotypes is a critical step in relationships being more equal and functional.
Get rid of bullshit fairy tales
The vast majority of classic fairy tales have the female as the weak one who needs to be rescued by the male character. Yeah, not in our house! Those stories are banned and replaced by books with strong females. Books such as “Strong is the new pretty” and “Good night stories for Rebel Girls” are our staples.
One of my proudest moments was listing to my five-year-old discuss with her friends who their favourite rebel girl was (hers was Frida Kahlo) and how they didn’t like the latest peroxide blonde pop star because she wasn’t ‘rebel’ enough.
Don’t joke about chasing boys away
I used to do the traditional thing that dad’s do. Where we threaten to not let our daughters out of the house and that we’ll chase their boyfriends away. This dad joke sets up a combative relationship between their family and their chosen partner. Instead when my daughters talk about getting married or having a boyfriend, I talk to them about the qualities they should look for in a partner; kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness. I also talk about how beautiful relationships can be and what joys they will experience from a good one.
A partner is not the missing piece in your life
Another aspect I think it’s important to mention is that, even if we don’t realise that, we live in a world where there is still a lot of pressure for a woman to be in a relationship. Like it’s some sort of social achievement, and being single is just not okay. How many jokes about single women have you heard?! We don’t do that with men, so why do it with women? This attitude creates a mindset in women that it’s better to be in a bad relationship than be single.
Never come from a place of judgement
Heaven forbid that you have a child that finds themselves in an abusive relationship. But if they do, you want them to feel safe enough to turn to you for support. Judgement kills safety! When your children turn to you about a deep and emotional situation, you must make it a good experience. If they show vulnerability and you shame them or judge them or get angry, they will never do that again.
I am hopefully setting up an environment where my girls know they can talk to me about everything and I’ll always be there to listen. Which, if you think about it, will also help prevent them from becoming abuse victims, because they’ll know it’s okay to ask for help and that I’ll always be there to support them.
White Ribbon Australia acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the country on which we work, the Cammeraygal people of the Eora nation. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
White Ribbon Australia recognises that the movement to prevent men’s violence against women is built on the tireless efforts of women and women-led organisations throughout history, internationally and in Australia.