A reflection for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

By Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ, 25 November 2022
Image: Sherise Van Dyk/Unsplash


25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Each year, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is celebrated on 25 November. This year, it is particularly significant because it coincides with the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032 (National Plan). The National Plan goes beyond exhortation and good intentions to offer a project to eliminate violence against women and children in a generation. The plan will be followed by two detailed five-year action plans, backed up by set targets and reviews. Crucially, it enjoys the support of Federal and State Governments.

The National Plan is impressive in its seriousness and focus. It identifies a national scandal and names it correctly. Its focus is on persons who have been wronged, on the violence which they have suffered and on its lasting effects on their health and confidence. It identifies this violence as overwhelmingly suffered by women and children, and as overwhelmingly inflicted by men. Its extent is shown by the claim that one in three women have suffered from physical violence after they are 15 years old and that one in five have experienced sexual violence.

The tight and practical focus on the persons who suffer from violence leads the National Plan to consider the relationships that shape their lives. They include personal relations to parents, children, partners, friends and neighbours, institutional relations to police, courts, hospitals, schools, banks, churches, and government departments of health and welfare.

They also include cultural relationships involved in, personal history, religion, peer group influences and environment. These considerations dictate a separate plan to respond to violence suffered in Indigenous communities. It recognises that a plan cannot be imposed as a ‘whitefella’ solution to an Indigenous problem but must be shaped by the experience, situation and cultural needs of Indigenous people.

The complex relationships involved in domestic violence demand sustained support for women at risk from it. They need to recognise the early signs of abusive and manipulative behaviour. They must be able to access trustworthy advice, to know that their report of violence will be taken seriously and that any court orders will be policed, that they will be able to find safe emergency accommodation, assured accommodation after separation, and trained help in working through the trauma she has suffered. This will demand coordination and cooperation between a range of government programs.

Because violence against women involves a destructive relationship with men, understanding and addressing it requires equal attention to what leads men to abuse women, and to how they can be helped to form respectful relationships with them.

In dealing with men’s violence, the National Plan reflects many of the central themes of the experience and research of Jesuit Social Services, particularly through The Men’s Project. It identifies the cultural elements in the way that young men see and express their masculinity. It describes how violent pornography and displays of abusive behaviour in social media and public life can model their relationships with women.

For the National Plan to be implemented, young men must grow into a richer understanding of their masculinity and form deeper relationships with women. This will require emotional literacy and a commitment to consensual relationships, supported by good public role models and the readiness of bystanders, young and old, to call out abusive attitudes and behaviour. It will also require special support for children who have suffered from domestic violence, educating young men to form respectful relationships with women, and ensuring that men are held accountable for violence against women and are supported in learning non-violent ways to deal with frustration.

The National Plan is admirable in describing the respect that we all owe to one another and that society must demand and encourage.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ writes for Jesuit Communications and Jesuit Social Services.


Read Daily
* indicates required