I'm sure you have at least five women in your life that you love and care about.
Consider that one in five women has experienced sexual violence, one in four women has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and one in four women has experienced violence from an intimate partner at least once. Violence against women is a widespread problem in Australia.
November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence that runs to December 10.
I hope for a time where we no longer need a single day dedicated to raising awareness of violence against women, but we are a long way from this, and we need every member of our community to take action to eliminate violence against women.
It is only when we all realise the role we play in violence against women that we can act individually and collectively to stop it.
In becoming the CEO of Laurel House one of my biggest insights is that I have unknowingly been complicit in creating a society that allows violence against women.
I have imposed gender stereotypes on children; I have assumed that the doctor I will be seeing is a man, and that my nurse will be a woman; I have told male friends they are 'under the thumb' or to 'man up'.
I have contributed to the gender stereotypes and unwittingly condoned unequal power relations between men and women.
I have hampered gender equality and fostered an environment that has allowed violence against women and girls.
It is more than likely that you have too.
So, what can we do to eliminate violence against women in our community?
- When someone tells you about their experience of sexual, family, or domestic violence...LISTEN, BELIEVE, SUPPORT and REPORT if they are a child, or help an adult to learn about reporting options.
- Call out gender stereotypes when you see or hear them - tell children that boys and girls can like anything, play with anything and be anything when they grow up.
- Challenge your family, friends, colleagues, or teammates when they use stereotyped constructions of masculinity or femininity.
- Encourage men to talk to other men about male privilege and gender inequality, and to call out sexism.
- Talk to children and young people about consent. Teach them that others need to seek consent before touching them.
- Talk openly about respectful relationships. Violence against women often starts with manipulative, coercive, controlling and threatening behaviours. Be alert to these signs and reach out and offer your support.
- Intervene when you hear or see disrespect to women.
- If you are an employer, add Family Violence leave to your staff entitlements, and provide training to people managers about violence against women.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY LISTEN, BELIEVE, SUPPORT and REPORT
- Kathryn Fordyce, CEO, Laurel House