Men neither violent nor silent

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ACT Greens Member for Molonglo and White Ribbon Day Ambassador Shane Rattenbury writes:

We live in an age of statistics, regularly bombarded with them in the news or at work.  How often do we stop and look behind those statistics to consider what they mean in people’s daily lives?

White Ribbon Day highlights the campaign to prevent violence against women in Australia.

The White Ribbon campaign exists because of the extraordinary statistic that one in three Australian women will be subjected to at least one act of physical or sexual violence or other abuse in her lifetime.

Behind this statistic are stories about violence against our mothers, our sisters, the girl we studied with at uni, or the woman sitting at the next workstation.

The White Ribbon campaign is about men insisting that violence against women is unacceptable and rejecting the attitudes that allow violence to occur.

Of course, most men do not commit violence against women. But when violence occurs, it is mostly males who do it.

The UN has also declared November 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The former Secretary General Kofi Annan poignantly stated that “violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation.  And it is perhaps the most pervasive.  It knows no boundaries of geography, culture, or wealth.  As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.”

This international perspective does not mean we can write it off as a problem occurring “somewhere else”.  Here in Australia, violence is the biggest cause of injury or death for women between 18 and 45. For women under 45, intimate partner violence contributes more to poor health, disability, and death than any other risk, including obesity and smoking.

Aside from the terrible physical and emotional toll, there is also the economic toll – in 2009 violence against women and their children was estimated to cost the Australian economy $13.6 billion, including absence from work, health costs, and pain and suffering.

As much as this violence affects all types of women, it is perpetrated by all types of men.  There is no stereotype – men of all occupations and social classes commit this violence.

Therefore men of all ages, from all workplaces, of all political affiliations and of all racial, ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds carry the obligation to bring and end to violence against women.  We are the ones who must break the cycle, and create a future free of violence and fear.

Changing men’s attitude about violence towards women means that we must never turn a blind eye, must never excuse violence, but have the strength to speak out – to our mates, our relatives or our colleagues.  We must challenge them, and support them, to change their behaviour and their attitude – for our mothers, our sisters, our daughters.

So men, we all have a part to play.  You can start today by swearing at, wearing a white ribbon and joining the ranks of men who vow not to be violent and not to stay silent.

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