Your Mother. Your sister. Your daughter. Statistics show that they have a one in three chance of falling victim to domestic violence. The data becomes darker and more pervasive when we find that seven in ten murdered women are targets of domestic violence. But that’s just another statistic, another number, on another issue to darken our doorsteps. These figures are thrown at us by the media: to shock, to spark the desired response. As such, domestic violence appears to be the anomaly, an issue that has cut through the white noise and spurred us to action.
Yet for whatever reason, nothing seems to come from it. Am I not looking hard enough? Am I a part of the problem? I couldn’t tell you. Last week I sought to change that, attending an ANU Public Lecture where Tania Farha, who works for UN Women ‒ remember the Emma Watson speech? ‒ as a policy specialist in the Ending Violence Against Women Section, spoke.
She was marvellous, a great speaker and an accomplished woman. The theatre was packed, with 50 or so people in attendance. Yet only four were men. She spoke at length about the massive, tragic gaps between the UN declarations ‒ and boy were there a few ‒ and their implementation. Yet only four men were there to hear it. She applauded the establishment of UN Women for elevating the status of all females by making them a feature of any UN decision. Syria, Ebola, you name it: how women will be affected is now at the forefront. Yet only four men were there to hear it.
Was there a men’s rights conference I wasn’t invited to? A football game I was supposed to fake enjoyment at? Where were the other men? I was only at the lecture because a girlfriend of mine wanted company. For whatever reason, I’d always viewed domestic violence as someone else’s issue. But since when was culpable deniability an excuse for not fighting the gravest expression of terrorism in Australian homes?
I have a confession. I’ll admit, initially, I felt defensive. I loathed Tania for portraying me as one of those “men” who beat their spouses. I was pissed off that my gender was being portrayed as attackers, aggressive and bad fathers. I felt as if I was a part of the problem. It’s no wonder that godforsaken 1/3 campaign and #notallmen hashtag went viral.
But that’s men sticking up for men. It’s petty. We have to grow up. I would never commit such a heinous act of violence, but until that day I’d done nothing more than allow mostly male politicians pay lip service to the issue. The 2015 Budget allocated $16.7 million for an awareness campaign to end Violence Against Women. The Royal Commission into Union Corruption? $80 million.
Australians killed because of Islamic extremism in 2015? None. Australians killed because of Domestic Violence? One every week. This was acknowledged at the lecture; that a lot of us aren’t taking the steps to stand in solidarity with our wives, girlfriends and sisters to end Violence Against Women. Is it because it’s not second nature for men to understand relational power imbalances? Have our chests been pumped and ears been closed by centuries of privilege?
We must do more.
Because it’s women who are doing the leg work on the issue. Women who are advocating for reform. Women who are running the crisis shelters. And women who are overwhelmingly targeted by domestic abuse. It shouldn’t have to be that way. We clearly must do more. For every woman who reports the violence, another is frightened to call out, trapped in her home, scared that the limited services will make it worse.
It’s not good enough.
We’ve heard the stats, learnt to condemn these men and know the lines to dish out. We know never to hit a woman and most of us never will. But it can’t stop there. If we become informed and stand next to Australia’s women in their fight against this senseless brutality then politicians will get the message, more substantive policy will follow, and more women will come forward with the knowledge that their cries will be heard.
This is not a women’s issue, this is an Australian epidemic. We can stop another woman from becoming a statistic. We can end Domestic Violence. We owe it to our sisters, our mothers, our girlfriends and women everywhere to do more.
I know I will.