Last weekend I was reading a story online about a family from a small town in rural Australia. A family that included three children. Three children who, along with their mother, were murdered by their father. The story allowed comments (that have since been removed), and although conventional internet wisdom suggests “Don’t Read The Comments”, I went ahead and read them anyway. Until I got to one that said:
“This wasn’t a case of domestic violence. Domestic violence is the repeated beating of a woman over a long period of time”.
It was a comment that blew my mind.
It was a comment that made me angry.
It was a comment that had gotten over 60 ‘likes’.
Today, VicHealth released the findings from the 2013 National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey (NCAS). And those findings are horrifying. Horrifying, yet not surprising.
The eye-opening stats just seem to go on and on.
I suspect that in the coming days, we will hear more about these findings. And I hope we do, because Australia is failing. It’s failing its women. It’s failing its men. It’s failing its children.
The person who commented on the story about the family in that small town, and those who had ‘liked’ it, are not alone in their thinking. And those ideas don’t occur in a vacuum. They occur in a country that privileges men above women and tolerates misogyny.
They occur in a country where attitudes regarding men’s violence against women means that domestic violence remains hidden, victim-blaming is prevalent, and jokes about rape are considered funny.
The survey found that over a quarter of people believe that men make better political leaders. A belief that occurs in a nation where senior politicians and media personalities were the perpetrators of gender-based bullying against our first female Prime Minister.
The survey found that 12% of people believe that when jobs are scarce, men have more right to a job than women. A belief that occurs in a nation where our male Prime Minister named himself as the Minister for Women.
The survey found that there has been a decrease in the number of people who believe that violence against women is common. A belief that occurs despite police in New South Wales alone receiving an average of 94 domestic violence report every day.
The survey found that almost 1 in 5 Australian’s believes that a woman is partly to blame if she is sexually assaulted while she’s intoxicated. A belief that occurs in a nation where alcohol-fuelled street violence is “horrific”, but the rape of a woman is “an unfortunate reminder”.
We need to change, Australia. Because men’s violence against women doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens along a continuum.
When we ask “why didn’t she leave” instead of “why did he hit her”, we’re blaming her.
When we laugh at a rape joke, we’re telling the world that rape is okay.
When we excuse street harassment with “boys will be boys”, we’re telling women that their safety is not important.
As I’ve said before, when we tell women not to drink too much or not to wear a short skirt, we’re telling them to make sure that he rapes someone else, instead of telling him not to rape.
These factors, and many more, enable the climate in our country that lets men’s violence against women thrive. And each one of us is responsible for changing it – by not laughing at that joke, by not blaming that victim, by speaking up when we see or hear sexist attitudes.
And we need to do it fast. Because we’re failing women. And it’s killing them.