Stop It At The Start: Violence Against Women.
Violence against women in Australia is a serious but preventable issue.
Lyndon supports the ‘Stop it at the Start’ campaign which aims to help parents, carers and adults educate children on the beliefs and attitudes we may be teaching our children that can results in violence.
The campaign is about teaching children respectful attitudes and behaviours. Sometimes we play down disrespect towards girls and say things like “it’s only a bit of fun”. This teaches girls that they should be flattered, rather than upset when they’re insulted.
It’s important we understand the cycle of violence. Not all disrespect towards women results in violence. But all violence against women starts with disrespectful behaviour.
On average, since the age of 15, one in three Australian women has been a victim of physical assault. About a quarter of young people are prepared to excuse violence from a partner (depending on the scenario). One woman is killed nearly every week at the hands of a current or former partner.
Journalist Annabel Crabb suggested that, if one person each week was being killed by sharks, we’d drain the oceans. With violence affecting so many women, we have to ask where the problem starts – and we have to stop it there, right from the start. And the answer is simple and subtle. In fact so subtle that we may not even be aware of it.
Sometimes we play down disrespect towards girls and say things like “it’s only a bit of fun”. This teaches girls that they should be flattered, rather than upset when they’re insulted.
We also play down aggression as just part of being a boy when we laugh, shrug, and say, “he’s just going through a phase.” We should never excuse disrespect, intimidation or aggression towards anyone, including girls. And sometimes we actually shift the blame to the girl in these situations. We ask, “what did she do to him? Did she provoke him?” and send the message that she caused him to yell, treat her with disrespect or act aggressively towards her.
Parents are the most influential people in their children’s lives. They absorb our words and actions. When they hear us say things that teach disrespect, they accept the ideas and values we often don’t even realise we are transmitting.
Now, if children see or hear us make excuses for disrespectful behaviours, does that mean that they’ll grow into disrespectful and violent people? Or that they’ll become victims of violence?
In most cases, no. Does that make disrespectful behaviour okay? Absolutely not.
If we are open to thinking about the way we handle disrespect, aggression and victim blaming, we are taking the first step towards creating change. It’s a long-term goal to create a cultural shift, but its one that will not only benefit our daughters, sisters, and partners, but all Australians.
If we start having conversations with our children about it, we can change the culture that says disrespect is okay. It’s as simple as thinking about what we say and what it teaches our children. It’s as simple as calling out disrespect when you hear or see it.
Some of us might feel a little uncomfortable. Some might be dismissive. But, many of us are not even aware that we do or say things that could promote those disrespectful attitudes. Becoming aware of our thoughts, our words and our actions can help stop the cycle of violence against women.