Time to take responsibility for each other

If we are only as good as our worst, then Australia, how good are we as a nation when it comes to domestic abuse? Maybe not that good. But we can be better. 

It is White Ribbon Day on Friday, and communities across Australia are standing up, lacing up to march and speaking out against violence in their communities all this week.

White Ribbon was originally premised on men taking ownership of their role in the perpetration of violence against others, or being examples of peace. Be it violence against women, children or other men, White Ribbon allows men to be peer counsellors, and stand up as role models for other men and boys.

But how entrenched is acceptance of violence – especially violence perpetrated by men? The Australian Bureau of Statistics has recorded one in six women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetimes. In a room with six women, or out of six women in your life; sisters, mothers, aunts and grandmothers, at least one will be a victim. Statistics also indicate one in three who are abused are male. 

Saying that, perhaps the recent US election reflects the overall need for more support to understand what constitutes violence, how the seeds of objectification and disdain can grow into a victim or perpetrator, and how men and women can educate their sons and daughters.

American President-elect Donald Trump made headlines prior to the election with his outspoken ‘locker room’ talk about what he felt was acceptable behaviour with women, and his dominant role in the relationship.

In his estimation, it seems women frequently exist for the pleasure of men. What message is this for children who may be on either end of the violence, and how deeply does his rhetoric endorse the behaviour of perpetrators?

Many women and men who voted for Trump dismissed his attitude as inconsequential. How can treating another human as less than human be acceptable? 

For White Ribbon, perhaps as a community we can choose to pledge taking a measure of responsibility when we learn someone we know is physically, emotionally or sexually abused. This also extends to abusers, because they need support to break the cycle, and that is where White Ribbon really steps in. It will take courage, but as a nation, we should be good enough to accept the challenge.

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