Hitting Home

In simple terms, violence against women is violence ‘directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects a woman, disproportionately’.
— Amnesty International 2004

Every week in Australia, a woman is killed by a current or former partner.

Every week.

52 women a year die because they did something 'wrong' in the eyes of their husband, or ex-husband, or boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend, or whatever relationship label was worn. Maybe they were unfaithful, or perceived to be unfaithful. Maybe they didn't pay him enough attention when he was drunk and explaining his no doubt brilliant theory of why all foreigners should go back to where they came from. Maybe they didn't find his funny stories appropriately hilarious, or maybe they thought his best mate's funny stories were a little bit too funny. Maybe they just got a bit lippy.

Maybe they didn't have dinner on the table at the dot of six o'clock.

Or maybe they were stopping him hurting their kids.

It's irrelevant. Violence is violence.

These are the facts on violence against women in Australia.

  • Close to half of all women (40%) have experienced violence since the age of 15;
  • Just under one third of women (29%) have experienced physical assault;
  • Nearly one in five women (17%) have experienced sexual assault;
  •  Nearly one in six women (16%) have experienced violence by a current or previous partner in their lifetime.

I am not saying anything new. These figures are available to anyone who looks at White Ribbon's website, and tomorrow I hope a lot of people will be looking at them, because it's White Ribbon Day. I can't actually think of a man I know personally who hasn't signed the Oath, and I know that they mean it and that they uphold it.

But there is a culture of violence out there. It is real and it is present. It is also not immediately apparent in most of Australian society, and this is where the disconnect happens and not only do we see why the statistics are so high, but why women stay quiet and men get away with it.

I call it the 'But My Friends Wouldn't Do That' reasoning.

I fit into all four of those bullet pointed statistical categories above. This is not something I say to be sensationalist, or dramatic, and it makes me intensely uncomfortable. But it proves a point. I am a 42 year old, educated professional. I have, in the past, been hurt very badly. I kept my mouth shut, as did (and do) many others I know, because the men we know don't do that sort of thing. Nice, middle class guys in white collar jobs don't hit women. They don't rape women. They don't kill women. Women (or girls) like me don't get hurt.

This is bullshit.

The statistics prove it. Conversations prove it. Lost months, years, opportunities. Bruises, broken bones, hospital visits... they all prove it. A lot of what we have seen in the past twelve months in the media proves it.

52 deaths a year prove it.

I am proud of the men I know and call friends. I see in them, and their relationships with their wives, their children - especially their daughters - so much hope and generosity and love. I see them teaching their sons respect and friendship for women. I trust that they would not tolerate behaviour like this from their friends.

So tomorrow, on White Ribbon Day, please take the time, if you are a bloke, to think about that culture of silent violence. If you have a female friend you are worried about, then find help for her. If you have a mate you think might be in deep, find help for them.

Don't let them hit home again.

All statistics courtesy of whiteribbon.org.au from the ABS, Amnesty International, and The United Nations