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Action countsA group of men from Preventing Violence Together partner organisations met in July 2015 to discuss their experiences as men taking action to prevent violence against women. Written for whw news edition 3 – 2015, they shared the journey they’ve taken to understand men’s violence against women as encompassing unequal power relations between men and women, emanating from gender inequality. 

As members of the Preventing Violence Together partnership, we have had the opportunity to discuss violence, gender inequality and male privilege at length with colleagues. We have also had the opportunity of having in-depth discussions with women working in preventing men’s violence against women, enriching our learning and professional development with insights that other men have been rarely afforded.

Most men we talk to oppose violence against women, but this view does not always translate into action to prevent violence.

It is our belief that two barriers, both related to language, hinder most men from engaging in activities to prevent violence against women. The first barrier relates to understanding that all men can play a role in preventing violence against women. When we talk with some men about the importance of being involved in preventing violence against women, we are so often met with two responses: ‘I am not violent, why do I need to act?’ and ‘I do not know what you are asking me to do’.

The links between gender equity and preventing violence against women are complex, with gender inequities creating an environment for violence to occur. However, this link often runs counter to the personal experience of men we talk to. All have grown up in gendered environments, but not all men choose to use violence. Answering the question ‘what causes violence against women?’, and giving men the capacity and confidence to make changes in their everyday lives is not an easy task.

The second barrier is balancing language that doesn’t shy away from the issue, with language that encourages and supports participation.

Quite rightly, we use the phrase ‘men’s violence against women’ and encourage men to take ownership over the problem. This recognises that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of violence, and that men have been afforded unequal positions of power in our society. Despite this, we have found when we talk to men who have never committed violence and use language that seeks to encourage ownership, we force our audience to make a challenging decision – will I confront this as an issue for all men or, because I’ve never been violent and I don’t see the links you’re referring to will I choose to stay disengaged? When talking to men outside of the health and community sector we find that many choose the easier option.

We believe that taking ownership over the issue is not as simple as an opting in or out at a single point in time. Eliminating violence against women is a long-term prospect, meaning that building strong community involvement will be more like a marathon than a sprint. For this reason, we need to be prepared to engage men where they are in order to build the support to get where we want to be as a society.

In this issue, the journey from superficial engagement to comprehensive understanding starts with small, every day actions that build to longer term engagement and, ultimately, a change across our community. Participation in change occurs across a continuum – from being placated or informed, through to partnering and leading.

For every man who makes a public stand to promote gender equity and prevent men’s violence against women, there are many more that contribute in smaller ways. Whether it’s husbands and partners who break gender stereotypes in the home, or the sports coaches who challenge sexist jokes in their clubs and set a culture of respect for teams to abide by, these ideas and contributions, however small, should be encouraged and seen as important steps on a journey to move men from a position of participation to one of leadership.

One in three women will experience violence at some point in their life. That means that, whether they know it or not, most men will come into contact with a woman who has experienced violence.

With an issue of the size and breadth as violence against women, men cannot simply choose whether or not to be involved – we are all involved. The real choice is what that involvement will be. Our objective is to engage other men, to help them identify ways to confront gender inequity and oppose violence to women, and to make small everyday contributions that can grow into leadership. We invite other men to join us.

The authors

This article was written by: James Dunne (HealthWest Partnership), Nuredin Hassan (ISIS Primary Care), Cuong La (HealthWest Partnership), Peter Crowley (Moonee Valley City Council) and Samuel Muchoki (Brimbank City Council)

Read more stories and get the latest news about Women’s Health West in whw news.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of organisations mentioned.

It’s not something that will slowly fix itself

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By Mark Williams, 16 Days Activist

Initially I thought I’d do the 16 Days Activist Challenge to help out a friend. She is working on the challenge and she does such good work, so I like to support her wherever I can.

Then after reading some information on the net and actually doing different parts of the challenge that have come up so far, I’ve found that it’s not just an issue perpetrated by a handful of people. It’s a much bigger issue than I imagined. It truly is something that needs more attention, and most definitely needs more men to take responsibility for the issue.

Now, I believe that I really am taking the challenge to positively improve the lives of people around me, and to help myself to be able to raise a child who will embrace the same positive values. I also believe it is important to work together to help lessen and, in a perfect world, eradicate violence against women. As most of these crimes happen behind closed doors, I imagine people believe it doesn’t happen as often as it does.

Until men are taught that violence is never an acceptable way to deal with any issue, we are not going to solve our problem. Having more people speak out and take action against men’s violence against women, this will hopefully bring increased awareness to the issue and, I hope, give people the strength and courage to stand up for themselves and others when violence happens.

As a man who works in a predominantly male organisation, I feel I have an obligation to talk to the people I work with about the issue.

For Action 5 of the 16 Days Activist Challenge, I’ve read a bit about the Bechdel test and had the guys I work with look at some movies to see how bad it is for women in the film industry. I think that was a good one to start with, as most people like watching movies and it’s a relatively easy one to get other people involved in. I have used the Bechdel test to get the conversation going a few times and then often led the chat into gender equality.

I’m mainly hoping to get people to start thinking about where our issues are coming from, and not just thinking that it is something that will slowly fix itself.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE

The Preventing Violence Together (PVT) partnership’s 16 Days Activist Challenge runs from 25 November to 10 December 2015.

JOIN Mark as a #16DaysActivist, it’s not to late to take the challenge!
SHARE your #16DaysActivist – send to info@whwest.org.au

Because it’s not acceptable

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By Lucy Padula, 16 Days Activist

I am doing the 16 Days Activist Challenge because it is an absolute necessity and it is something we should be unconsciously doing 365 days a year. According to VicHealth, family violence is the leading preventable contributor to death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15–44, being responsible for more of the disease burden than many well-known risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking and obesity.

This is not acceptable

Although talking about violence against women is important, talk alone will not change this. There is so much in the media about family violence, but little about services available to assist women and children. It is for this reason, and the upcoming UN-declared International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women, that I have decided to run two events to raise funds for Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre, as part of my #16DaysActivist Challenge. I invite one and all to come along.

ABOUT THE EVENTS

The theme of these events is “Empower Me”:

1. “Empower Me information session day” Friday 27 November
2. “Empower Me Family Fun Day” on 29 November 2015

I believe that knowledge is power. At the Empower Me Information Session Day there will be numerous speakers, including myself running 30 minute presentations about various matters including: – practical steps to take if you are separating, preparing for family dispute resolution (to discuss care arrangements for children), family violence and intervention orders, Xero for small business, dealing with anxiety and the path to financial independence. The fee for each session will be $20 with all profits going to Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre.

The Empower Me Family Fun Day is about bringing the community together in saying no to violence. It is about raising funds and awareness for Safe Steps. The more awareness that is raised, the more likely it is that a woman and child’s life could change for the better becoming aware of services available to help them. There will be lots of fun activities for the children on the day including dance class, play based learning, art classes, fairy floss among other things

As Malcolm X stated, ‘when “i” is replaced with “we” even illness becomes wellness’. Change can happen, but WE must ALL raise our voices AND act. Talking alone is not enough. Do something. Get involved. Come along to the Empower Me Information Session and learn something, and refer the day to someone who may benefit from it. Show your support at the Empower Me Family Fun Day.

GET INVOLVED 

There’s a few ways you can get involved:

  1. Go to the Empower Me events
  2. Check out her Empower Me Facebook page
  3. Find out more and register for events at her website

TAKE THE CHALLENGE

The Preventing Violence Together (PVT) partnership’s 16 Days Activist Challenge runs from 25 November to 10 December 2015. Take the challenge and be a part of the #16DaysActivist conversation

Lucy Padula is an accredited family lawyer based in Melbourne’s west.

Push to criminalise ‘revenge porn’

By Emma Weaver, Health Promotion Worker – Policy and Development

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Women’s Health West congratulate the Australian Labor Party on their commitment to improving the response to ‘revenge porn’ across Australia, via the legislative reform proposed in their Crime Code Amendment Bill for 2015.

‘Revenge porn’ occurs when a person distributes sexually explicit images and/or videos without the consent of the individual in the footage. It is a form of violence against women. It is also a gendered phenomenon. Revenge porn objectifies women (and in some instances men) as sexual objects that exist for men’s desires and needs, and perpetuates gendered stereotypes and negative social norms that position women and girls, and images of their bodies, as the property of men.

Victorian research has shown that women and girls are particularly vulnerable to revenge porn. The gender-based power inequities that exist between men and women have an impact on a woman’s ability to negotiate and make decisions about her sexual practices, such as participating in sexting behaviour and sharing private sexual images online. Research has also shown that young women and girls are increasingly expected to engage in ‘sexting’ or sharing sexual images via mobile devices. This behaviour is portrayed as a normal part of sexual behaviour and relationships among young people.

Recognising the gendered expectation of sexting and revenge porn, and how this phenomenon disproportionately affects the health and wellbeing of women and girls, Women’s Health West supported the amendment to this bill to criminalise the distribution of such material without consent. We encouraged the government to take a human rights approach, recognising the rights of an individual to be free from mental, emotional and physical violence, the right to privacy and the right to bodily integrity. In tandem with law reform, we also supported preventing revenge porn by giving young women and men opportunities to learn about respectful, gender-equitable relationships.

The amendment bill has been introduced into parliament, but at this stage the Turnbull Government has given no indication as to whether it will support the bill. It has, however, been backed by several MPs, including Karen McNamara.

To find out more about ‘revenge porn’, you might like to read these articles from The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/news/revenge-porn/

Sisters Day Out at Deer Park

By Ngahina Waretini, Sexual Health and Reproductive Health Promotion Worker

sisters day out

Last week, on Tuesday 6 October, over 100 Aboriginal women attended the 98th Sisters Day Out event hosted by Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention & Legal Service Victoria (FVPLS) in Deer Park.

Ngahina Waretini, Health Promotion Worker in Sexual Health and Reproductive Health at Women’s Health West, and Maureen Smith, Western Family Violence Regional Integration Coordinator for the Western Integrated Family Violence Committee, were invited along. This provided an opportunity to distribute sexual health education resources, promote related services and programs of Women’s Health West and meet women attending the Sisters Day Out.

Sisters Day Out is a one-day community event for Aboriginal women, focused on starting conversations about family violence and supporting Aboriginal women and families to overcome barriers to reporting violence and accessing support services. These events provide a culturally welcoming and culturally safe space for Aboriginal women to come together.

On the day, both Maureen and Ngahina were interviewed by ‘Women on the Line’ community radio show about the importance of the Sisters Day Out workshops. The full podcast is available via 3CR.

The Sisters Day Out workshop program began in 2007 and has reached over 7,000 Aboriginal women in Victoria to date. These informative events answer an urgent need: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence, and 10 times more likely to be killed as a result of violent assault. Aboriginal women are also the fastest growing group in Australia’s prison populations, and there’s a strong connection between the high levels of family violence experienced and criminalisation and incarceration rates.

Unfortunately FVPLS Victoria has not secured ongoing funding for this essential preventative program. FVPLS is currently crowd sourcing funding to save Sisters Day Out workshops.

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Ngahina and Maureen and their stall at the Sisters Day Out in Deer Park last week.