In a workshop I was helping to facilitate on fathering with some prison inmates, we started talking about domestic violence. Some of them viewed it a bit like they viewed disciplining their children: it was sometimes OK, or even necessary, but it was important not to go too far.
If you want to slap her, slap her. Don’t go overboard. One slap is fair enough but don’t lay the boot in.
Now and again they do deserve to be smacked.
At the same time, when it came to their own family, they generally believed it was important to step in and stop the violence.
It’s your responsibility [as a father] to talk to her new man and lay the law down.
If my daughter was being bashed and I wasn’t around, then I’d want someone to talk to the man and say he shouldn’t flog her.
We need to create a society that sends out clear messages that violence against women is NOT OK.
In some work we were doing in relation to domestic violence, a women who had survived years of domestic violence told us:
People said, “you made your bed – you lie in it.” That saying kept me in the situation.
That is not OK. So often it can be very hard to leave a violent situation. We know that it often takes a number of attempts before a woman is able to leave a violent home. For some women it is easier to stay than to leave: they fear repercussion, they have other commitments, they face potential poverty, they need to care for their children, and there are a wide range of emotional and practical implications of leaving. In addition, violent partners make it difficult for women to leave by keeping them poor, instilling fear, maintaining surveillance and using the children. In such a context, family, friends, neighbours and colleagues can make all the difference.
We need to make a choice. We need to commit to NOT remaining silent. We need to commit to NOT allowing it to keep happening.
We know that women surviving domestic violence are much more likely to tell their family, friends and neighbours about their situation than they are to tell the police or service providers. Although they are more likely to tell other women, as men we can also play a role. We need to think about how we can provide support.
A while ago I posted over 70 things we can do if we know, or suspect, that someone is experiencing domestic violence. (You can see the suggestions here.) As family, friends, neighbours and colleagues we CAN make a difference. It might mean we need to step our of our comfort zone, but we CAN make a difference.
Domestic violence is still largely seen as a private problem between two individuals, and few funded responses engage the informal social networks of survivors. White Ribbon Day encourages a much broader discussion and encourages us to think about what WE will do to end violence against women.
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