Friday, 25 November is White Ribbon Day, an Australian campaign to prevent men’s violence towards women. Anything that raises awareness of the alarming facts about this prevalent and insidious problem in our communities is a good thing, and the topic has been strongly supported over the past year. It’s time such behaviour stopped, for everyone’s benefit. I wish, though, that the gender bias be removed from these campaigns, and that support be publicly offered to anyone who suffers from domestic violence and abuse, regardless if they are female or male.
It’s a matter close to my heart that, as a result of such strong campaigning that paints men with the colour of violence, men who have been the victims of violence by their spouse – female or male – are being made to ‘stand down’ and feel unable to speak up and be heard and helped equitably. The language of current compaigning is very exclusive and inadvertently creates a greater divide between the sexes. Male victims receive much less support – from being laughed at and sent home to their abusers by police officers when they finally make a complaint, hearing negative comments like, ‘why don’t you stand up to her and hit her back?’, to not being able to access appropriate Domestic Violence housing, and being denied access to their children and home when AVOs are the first go-to action of a displeased spouse (even if the order is not supported by the magistrate at the court hearing, it still creates undue stress of an already distressed person who is suddenly unable to see his family or access his home and possessions – with no access to DV housing a dispossessed man may end up sleeping in his car, or worse). As any woman who has experienced abuse in the home could confirm, speaking up about it is hard enough when you’re being listened to compassionately; imagine how much harder it is when you’re not of the ‘weaker sex’, and the response you’re most likely to first be confronted with is disbelief.
Men and women are equally important to our communities, and need to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder to help prevent each other from slipping into the shadows and falling down the cracks. I believe that violence in the home is unacceptable, regardless of gender. Let’s foster positive long term change through inclusiveness and support of anyone who lives with domestic violence.