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Stop being complacent about male violence

April 24 2017 By Mary Barry, Our Watch CEO

It was recently revealed that more than 20,100 people were hospitalised due to assault in Australia in 2013-14, according to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report found that men are twice as likely as women to end up in hospital because of assault. It also found that women are more likely to end up in hospital because of domestic violence than any other type of assault.

Each one of these incidents represents a personal story. A story of fear, pain, and trauma. Many of these incidents will result in ongoing health problems or lifelong disability. In the case of domestic violence, many will be just one incident in a story of ongoing control and abuse. And each incident of violence has not only a personal cost to victim/survivors, but also a social and economic cost that we all bear.

Statistics and evidence tell us that men usually experience single incidents of violence from unknown men outside of the home. Women usually experience violence at the hands of men they know — often in their own homes and often repeated, over many years if not their lifetime. This is the reality for 1 in 4 Australian women — relationship violence and abuse.

Read more facts and figures on violence against women. 

Given that 95 per cent of all violence — physical or sexual assault, or threats — against both women and men is perpetrated by men, we can no longer be complacent about male violence in this country.

Of course, none of this means that “all men are violent” or that “only women can be victims of domestic violence”. I need to make this caveat because, unfortunately, there is a small number of people who feel and promote that trying to stop violence against women is somehow branding all men as violent, or denying that men can be victims. This is like saying raising funds for breast cancer research is denying prostate cancer exists.

Not being complacent means listening to and acting on what the evidence says works to end violence. This is the only way to ensure that future generations of Australians do not have to live with the threat of violence.

International research, multiple inquiries, advisory panels and the recent Victorian Royal Commission have all found that violence against women is preventable. They all confirm that working with children and young people is critical to preventing this violence. This is also recognised in the bipartisan and cross jurisdictional National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.

Evidence, experts, teachers, principals, and students themselves agree that respectful relationships education is one of the best ways to stop disrespect and violence from happening in the first place. This is because respectful relationships education gives young people the skills to analyse and challenge the violence-supportive norms and practices they encounter in their lives.

Rather than taking away from traditional curriculum like reading, writing, science, and math, or “indoctrinating children”, respectful relationships education both decreases students’ violence supportive-attitudes and improves classroom behaviour.

According to the evaluation of a respectful relationships program in 19 Victorian schools last year, two-thirds of teachers reported improved classroom behaviour and half of all teachers said that their teacher/student relationships improved.

One principal in the pilot said “respectful relationships education does not place an extra burden on teachers and it doesn’t take away from any other subject. In fact, it enhances those classes because both students and teachers are treating each other without prejudice or disrespect.”

The evidence suggests there are broader social benefits too, with students reporting feeling more confident to “call out” or question inappropriate behaviour among their peers.

Student changes were quantified and reflected upon, with one student stating: “before respectful relationships I was a very, very, very angry person. I had a massive temper. But after learning a few things about respectful relationships I’ve calmed down.”

Respectful relationships education makes fiscal sense too. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that if respectful relationships education was rolled out in all government schools in Australia we could prevent between 7-12,000 future incidents of violence against women, and save our economy up to $3.6 billion.

Above all, respectful relationships education aims to create the generational change we need to end violence in the future: a change that will prevent thousands upon thousands of Australians ending up in hospital each year because of assault. Worse yet, in a morgue.

Read more about Respectful Relationships Education.

This article was originally published in Rendez View

Media contact:

Hannah Grant, Media and Ambassador Program Manager, Our Watch: 0448 844 930 or hannah.grant@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”

Read guides for reporting about violence against women and their children.

About Our Watch

Our Watch’s purpose is to raise awareness and engage policy-makers and the Australian community in action to prevent violence against women and their children.

To do this the organisation works to increase gender equality and respect in all aspects of everyday life, such as through schools; workplaces; media; sporting organisations; social marketing, and developing and influencing public policy.

Our Watch’s work derives from the government’s commitment to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 and gives expression to many of the activities in the Second Action Plan 2013–2016 – Moving Ahead.