CENTRAL Victorian leaders in the prevention of violence have expressed concerns about attitudes condoning violence in the community.
The consortium consisting of the Centre for Non-Violence, Annie North, Cobaw Community Health, Loddon Campaspe Centre Against Sexual Assault and Women’s Health Loddon Mallee, says "we all have a responsibility to call out violence – in all of its manifestations''.
The members of the consortium are united in saying that “if we resort to blaming victims or bystanders for calling it out, we have lost sight of our commitment to living peacefully, freely and equally. Violence is never OK.”
The Loddon Region Gender Equality and Violence Prevention Consortium’s concerns relate to all violence, but come as the world prepares for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
The United Nations campaign starts on November 25 – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – and concludes on Human Rights Day.
Violence against women claimed 11 lives in Australia last month, CNV family violence prevention and development general manager Robyn Trainor said.
Men’s violence is the overwhelming context in which women’s lives are prematurely and brutally cut short, and experts have identified gender inequality as the underlying cause.
The keys to saving lives include challenging the condoning of violence; challenging rigid gender stereotypes; nurturing respectful relationships, and promoting women’s independence and decision-making.
Central Victorian agency leaders said it was clear some community members were taking information about family and domestic violence and its drivers on board and were better understanding the issues.
“The Royal Commission into Family Violence has seen a greater willingness for all of the community to acknowledge and engage in the conversation,” Loddon Campaspe Centre Against Sexual Assault chief executive Kate Wright said.
“We are seeing greater awareness of the violence that exists in our community.” But all were in agreement there was still a great deal of work to be done to prevent violence and promote understanding of the drivers.
“People underestimate the power of gender inequality,” Ms Wright said.
She said the inequality was so deeply entrenched, people had to consciously challenge the way they – and others – perceived and responded to the world.
Ms Wright said male dominance was evident in the media, in politics, and in leadership roles.
The resources to learn more about challenging gender inequality were out there, she said.
“But there has to be a driver to access that information,” she said.
She said the motivation often came in the form of a person coming into contact with violence, either directly or indirectly.
Women’s Health Loddon Mallee executive officer Tricia Currie said the 16 Days of Activism campaign was a call to action to create opportunities for people to come together.
She, too, said effecting change meant challenging behaviour that could often be normalised or minimised.
“There’s quite a bit of peeling back of the layers to the core of it. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it,” Ms Currie said.
At its annual general meeting on Thursday, WHLM provided insights into its commitment to driving change to achieve gender equality.
The organisation was involved in delivering a number of programs, including Respectful Relationships and the Rural Challenge.
Thirty-five school briefings and eight Respectful Relationships forums took place in the Loddon Mallee region in 2017-18.
Fifteen sports clubs and CFA brigades participated in the Rural Challenge in that period.
Both programs are designed to promote gender equality in communities.
One of the particular areas of the Rural Challenge’s focus is making traditionally male-dominated environments more welcoming and inclusive of women and girls.
Ms Currie said the theme of this year’s 16 Days of Activism, #HearMeToo, highlighted the critical place people’s stories had in the changes we, as a society, needed to make to prevent violence.
That included listening to the stories of people who had experienced violence and believing them, and listening to and believing the stories of people who had experienced discrimination.
Ms Trainor highlighted the importance of providing people with examples of how they could call out the drivers of men’s violence against women, which included condoning men’s violence.
She said achieving gender equality was not just about setting quotas. “It’s about creating a culture,” she said.
Ms Trainor called for a greater emphasis on what was working well to promote gender equality.
She said there was still a strong focus on the behaviour of victims of family violence, and a lot of excusing of a perpetrator’s behaviour rather than identifying negative attitudes or stereotypes.
“We all need to think about how we look at this issue,” Ms Trainor said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence or sexual assault, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 373 372 or visit www.1800respect.org.au.
In an emergency, call 000.