Whilst violence against any person, female or male, is never to be accepted, the significance of recognising the commitment of men and boys to ending violence against women cannot be understated.
Year on year, statistics show that domestic and family violence is mainly perpetrated by men in an intimate partner relationship or after separating from the relationship. It is more than just physical violence and can often involve the exploitation of power imbalances and patterns of abuse.
The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) says “in the 24 months to March 2019, the number of recorded domestic assaults increased by 6 per cent and the number of indecent assaults and acts of indecency rose by 5.8 per cent”. With “the main change in regional NSW was that seven of the 13 statistical areas showed an increase in recorded rates of domestic assault”. The victims of domestic violence murders in the year to March 2019 included 15 women, 14 men, seven young people who were killed by a parent or guardian and two people of unknown ages.
It is important to understand that domestic violence does not just happen in some areas of society. Domestic and family violence does not discriminate. It occurs in all areas of the community and across cultural groups. Domestic and family violence is an abhorrent abuse of power that affects the physical, emotional, social and financial wellbeing of all members of a family including children and young people. The effects are devastating and can cause lifelong trauma and damage.
I once heard it said that we are male by birth but men by choice and while that may seem like a tag line, it does bring into focus the need for boys to be exposed to positive male role models who respect women as equals and who demonstrate, through their attitudes, words and actions a commitment to doing their part to create a society where all girls and women can live in safety and free from violence and abuse.
When thinking about domestic and family violence, there is, at times a tendency for us to focus on the extreme end of a detestable violent episode perpetrated by a man on a woman, but the issue of violence against women and girls runs much deeper than that.
To effectively address the issue of domestic and family violence, we must ensure we are having intentional conversations with boys and men about the way we speak and act towards women in and out of their presence. Those conversations need to be honest and real with a focus on boys and men being accountable for our behaviour towards girls and women. That includes each of us having the courage to step up and hold our mates and colleagues accountable rather than be a passive bystander when we hear or see another man speaking or acting inappropriately to or about women or when someone in our circle makes a “harmless joke” about women.
In my work in social services, there is an adage that “language impacts on practice”; when it comes to violence against women, a parallel could be drawn to say that boys’ and men’s “language impacts our behaviour”. The responsibility for ending men’s violence against women starts with each man taking stock of our own attitudes, beliefs, language and behaviours to ensure they reflect the attributes of respect, equality and empowerment towards women.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please do not remain silent, reach out and seek help by contacting your local police station or by calling one our friendly professional staff at CatholicCare.
Domestic violence is a serious problem that impacts many NSW families. In 2016, an estimated 17 per cent of Australian women aged 18 years and over (or 1.6 million women) had experienced violence by a partner since the age of 15 years (ABS Personal Safety Survey 2017).
Gary Christensen is the Acting Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning.
To contact CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, call (02) 8843 2500 or visit https://ccss.org.au/
Reproduced with permission from the November 2019 edition of the Aurora Magazine, the news publication of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.