Sadly I’m regularly asked to speak on family violence. I always begin by explaining that while family violence, or domestic violence, as it is often referred to, is one of the most serious issues facing our community, I’m going to focus specifically on men’s violence against women.
Because men inflicting violence against women is the core problem to be addressed in order to reduce the incidence of family violence. The following examples illustrate my point and there are many others I could add.
Adrian Bailey was not known to Jill Meagher when he took her life in a Brunswick laneway in 2012. Sean Price was not known to Masa Vukotic when he brutally attacked her in a Doncaster park in 2015 and the killer of my beautiful friend Kylie Blackwood was not known to the family when he violently stabbed her to death in her own home in Pakenham in 2013.
So I make no apologies in targeting my speeches at men’s violence against women.
A sense of entitlement. Sounds reasonable doesn't it? I can think of situations where a sense of entitlement might apply. Annual leave, the right to vote, a fair trial ...
But put the word “indecent” before the word “sense” in the same sentence and it has a completely different connotation. Use the words “an indecent sense of entitlement” when referring to a man's attitude to women and the words take on a more sinister meaning. See where I'm heading.
I read these words in an article last year. They were spoken by Ken Lay, the former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police and a man for whom I have the greatest respect. I can't remember when a simple sentence so accurately targeted the root cause of an issue. Ken provided an insight into why we have a culture of men seeking dominance over women and the violence that too often follows.
Since I read these words, I have gained a more focused understanding of male behaviour and a more acute awareness of how this sense of entitlement is used on a daily basis. I read examples of it every day in the newspapers. In all forms of life including the workplace, the sporting arena and the general community.
I don’t hear a chorus of women calling out for special treatment. I simply call it respectful relationships. Respect for the person as an individual. Not gender based.
Respectful relationships start in the home and should be reinforced in our schools. A recent article written by a Melbourne-based teacher highlighted the challenges faced by a young female school teacher in a classroom of boys. Sexual innuendos and advances are passed off as normal schoolyard banter. This is not acceptable. Behaviour in later life can be traced back to these schoolyard days and what has been passed off as acceptable behaviour or just boys being boys. Ken Lay said this can later devolve into sexist jokes and catcalls and sink further to where it becomes sexual assault and domestic violence.
I spoke recently to an all-girl school about men’s violence against women. I’m certainly not an expert parent but I was able to share with the girls my observations as a father of three daughters. Top of my list was to watch how your boyfriend’s father treats his wife or partner. It will provide a good indication of how your boyfriend will treat women and in particular how he will treat you. Years of family behaviour and culture are difficult to change.
We need to strengthen our school-based programs. Early education is the key. It is difficult to change actions occurring behind the closed doors of a family home without first educating our children from an early age about respectful relationships. The White Ribbon school program ‘Breaking the Silence’ is a good start.
Our judiciary system needs to get tougher. Sentencing is not meeting community expectations. I’m sick and tired of reading the stories of reoffending. Too often, men are being released early and escalating their violent actions against women with deadly consequences. We send offenders into our prison system filled with violence and hatred towards women and then release them back onto our streets and expect them to behave more respectfully towards women. It’s a flawed system.
These men should be monitored, their movements restricted, and they should be forced to undergo some form of rehabilitation and reform before they are allowed back into the community.
My daughters are growing up in a world where it is not safe for them to walk through a park, catch a taxi, park a car in an unlit carpark. I fear for their safety simply because they are young women. My mates with young sons don’t have these same fears.
I spoke to a local sergeant recently and asked him if he thought we were making ground on family violence. He looked me squarely in the eye and said things were getting worse. Over 90 per cent of his station’s callouts are related to violence in the home where men are involved. He did attribute some of the increase in numbers to the increasing preparedness to report violence in the home. Hopefully this is a good sign of heightened awareness and that women are more prepared to take the first steps to end the violence.
The 2015 Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, uses the seat belt analogy to explain how a community can change. In the past, seat belts were barely used; now fastening a seat belt when you get into the car is a habit. The same could be said for smoking in the workplace. Most of us would be horrified if the person sitting at the desk opposite lit up a cigarette and puffed away, filling the office with smoke. Would you be horrified if a colleague made a sexist remark to a woman in the office. Hopefully the answer is yes.
It’s time for us to make a stand and change the culture in which we live. As a White Ribbon Ambassador, I took the oath to stand up, speak out and act to prevent men’s violence against women.
Not every man will inflict violence against women but every man is capable of doing something to prevent violence against women.
Our time starts now.
June 20, 2016
Having just read Brian's article on violence against women , and listening to todays coverage of the Caroline Wilson/Eddie Mcguire scandal, I wish to display my disgust at the "blokey" culture of belittling people - same goes for the recent article about councillor-bashing.
The comments of Eddie, James Brayshaw and Danny Frawley, the so-called leaders and "wise men" of the footy world, were infantile, boorish and destructive, particularly as this round of AFL was supposed to be in support of the violence problem.
Their pathetic attempt at schoolboy humour is archaic and should be stamped out, their carefully worded "apologies" arewoefully inadequate. Violence against anyone is not on, and joking about it is possibly worse. I feel almost ashamed of being a male, but reading Brian's words I know that we are not all tarred with the same brush.
Thanks Brian, for shining a light on the bullies. What next, Eddie - pulling the wings off a few flies? That would be a great joke ...
Mark Robertson, Wonthaggi