Men’s violence against women is a massive problem here in Australia, and all over the world. So, what causes violence against women?
A massive amount of research has been carried out to figure this out. It shows this violence comes from the ways society has brought up men to think about what it means to be a man, and how they should relate to women. Some of these messed up ideas have turned into myths. The problem is, some people think these myths are facts. They are not.
See if you recognise 10 of the most common myths. You have probably seen them in action somewhere in your life.
So, there you have it – a bunch of myths and the facts to bust them. But now you know what isn’t true… what is really going on? Why do SOME men commit violence against women, when most men DON’T?
The four main drivers of violence against women
There are four main drivers of violence against women. Drivers are like the deep down causes.
- Fact 1: Attitudes condoning or justifying violence against women = sounds like – she had it coming to her... she shouldn't have worn that outfit…
- Fact 2: Men thinking they should be in control of decision making and able to set the limits to women’s independence = sounds like – the man of the house decides what happens with the finances.
- Fact 3: Stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity = sounds like – it’s the woman’s role to keep the man happy.
- Fact 4: Disrespect towards women, and male peer relations that emphasise aggression = sounds like – a group of mates making fun of women or telling sexist jokes.
This is the story of a boy, and a girl. It's a universal story. And an Australian story.
It's a story that occurs every two minutes, in fact.
A story that happens 657 times a day, every day of the year.
And in every kind of household, and every city and region across Australia.
This is the bigger story behind violence against women.
This story doesn't have a happy ending.
Because this is the story of how gender inequality contributes to the murder of one Australian woman almost every week.
Sounds like a tall tale, right? Let's take things back to the start.
Here's the story of a regular woman.
As a girl, she gets told how pretty she is, never how clever she is.
That if she wears a short dress she's asking for it.
She grows up, and gets used to being harassed by men on the street. That's just the way it is.
Here's the story of a regular man.
As a boy, he learns that women aren't equal to men from a very early age.
Even though both his parents work, on the weekends his mum does the housework while dad watches sport.
When he cries about being bullied at school, his dad tells him to 'stop being such a girl' and just 'punch 'em right back.'
Technically speaking, we'd say that these social norms, practices and structures have shaped both the boy and the girl, creating a society where women are valued less and men are expected to be dominant and in control.
In such a world, disrespect and hostility is excused, and violence against women is far more likely.
But back to our story.
The girl grows up into a woman, the boy grows into a man, and they begin to date.
He jokes that he hopes she "doesn't get fat now that we're together." She's not sure whether she should laugh.
They have the same education and do similar work, yet he earns more money.
He is quickly promoted, like other men in the company, while she gets overlooked.
At home, she does all the household chores, and he takes control of their joint finances, seeing as he's the main breadwinner and all.
When they're at the pub, he puts her down in front of his mates. His friends stay quiet.
In the morning he wakes up and blames the alcohol. And stress. He always has an excuse.
When she gets pregnant, her boss says she can't come back part-time.
After the baby is born, the lack of flexible job opportunities and childcare keeps her out of the workforce.
She is socially isolated and financially dependent on him.
He controls decision making, and her. They are not equals. She is dependent on him for everything.
So she never tells anyone that he has started to hit her.
She doesn't say anything to her family or friends.
She grows more isolated. She has nothing else but him, so she lives with the violence, until their story ends, one way or another.
This story isn't a one-off. It's a story shared by 1 in 4 Australian women who have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner.
And it's a story of one in five women since the age of 15 who experience sexual violence including rape, one in four emotional violence and one in three women physical violence.
But it's also a story that affects children.
More than half of the women who experience violence had children in their care when the violence occurred.
For victims and perpetrators, violence against women is the conclusion often reached after a life lived in a society where women and men aren't treated equally.
But we - you and I - can change the narrative.
Better education, policies, practices, support and funding can prevent this all-too-common story.
When women and men have equal power, value and opportunities in relationships and in society, violence against women is less likely.
By nurturing caring, respectful and equal relationships, and by creating equitable and inclusive communities, workplaces and institutions, we can create a society of equality and respect where violence against women is unthinkable.
Let's change the story. Because ending violence against women starts with gender equality.