Among other things, The Line talks a lot about gender stereotypes, attitudes towards women and respectful relationships. … Why?
So, the fact is there’s a national crisis happening in Australia right now:
- Every week, at least one woman is murdered by a current or former partner.
- Every three hours a woman is hospitalised as a result of domestic and family violence.
- One in five Australian women experience sexual violence.
As shocking as these stats are, they need to be put into context. These numbers represent people. Mums, sisters, daughters and friends who have done nothing wrong and deserve to be safe, and live free from fear. What kind of world are we living in where the women around us are nervous of being alone in a park? Or frightened walking past a bunch of guys outside a pub? Or terrified about what mood their partner might be in when they get home with their kids?
As former Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said, “We often talk about this issue in terms of numbers and statistics so we can better understand the magnitude of the problem. But I sometimes think this takes us away from the reality of seeing women with broken eye sockets, missing teeth, broken arms and broken spirits.”
A lot us have pre-existing ideas around why some men are violent towards women. You hear people say things like, “It’s a cultural thing – some people think it’s ok to hit women”, or “Domestic violence happens in poor neighbourhoods” or “They were on drugs or mentally ill”. But huge amounts of research has been undertaken to figure out why violence against women occurs and what can be done to stop it. It turns out a lot of the assumptions we make about the causes are just plain untrue – see Myth buster – violence against women for more on this.
The research shows the key drivers of violence against women are related to our attitudes – our attitudes towards women and our attitudes towards women’s roles in society. It’s about the fact that women and men do not have equal power or resources and that their voices, ideas and work are not valued in the same way. It’s also about the idea that women and men should act in certain ways or are better at certain things based on their gender. There may be other ‘contributing’ factors, such as alcohol abuse or poverty, but these factors alone do not cause violence against women. For example, we know that drunk men are not always violent towards women and not all violent men are drunk when they abuse women.
As educated as we all like to think we are about gender equality and fairness and respect it seems our attitudes are still far from ‘healthy’ – and that includes young people’s attitudes.
In a 2014 survey of 3000 young people we found the following alarming statistics:
- 1 in 4 young people don’t think it’s serious when guys insult or verbally harass girls in the street.
- 1 in 4 young people don’t think it’s serious if a guy, who’s normally gentle, sometimes slaps his girlfriend when he’s drunk and they’re arguing.
- 1 in 4 young people think it’s pretty normal for guys to pressure girls into sex.
That’s a quarter of young people with screwed up attitudes towards women, control and violence – a quarter of people who will grow up continuing to hold these beliefs and, potentially justifying violence against women – unless we take action now. If we can change these attitudes and raise a new generation of Australians who ‘get’ gender quality, and walk the talk among each other we can stop this national crisis. So, please, get on board, read our articles and get to know the line…