Gippsland continues to have the unenviable reputation of being one of the most unsafe places for women and girls to live in Victoria.
Gippsland is disproportionally over – represented for family violence reporting and above State average for rape, sexual assault and physical violence. These statistics are further magnified for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, migrant women and women living with a disability.
You have all seen the statistics. You know the number of women murdered every week in Australia. You know that gendered violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness for women aged 15 – 44 years. You know that 10 women per day are hospitalised for assault injuries related to family violence. Violence against women is costing in excess of $22 billion a year in Australia. In 2022, family violence response in Gippsland cost in excess of $300 million.
How can we seriously accept that this level of spending has become the norm?
We have come to expect that governments will continue to invest heavily in a large range of preventative health initiatives such as Bowel, Prostate, Cervical and Breast Cancer screening; influenza and COVID vaccinations; and genetic newborn screening to name a few. Governments do that to reduce the burden of disease on the individual and our communities and to improve health outcomes for individuals and their families.
So, why do we continue to accept the burden of disease and the poor health and social outcomes associated with violence against women and girls?
Violence against women is preventable but our greatest challenge is supporting our communities, our people and our organisations in identifying what to do and where to start.
It is still the case that the majority of individuals working in both the prevention of violence and responding to violence space are women. It continues to be women who carry majority of the workload and are responsible for trying to change a culture where the behaviours – most often than not – are perpetrated by men.
To the leaders in Gippsland – we need you to be part of the solution. To work collaboratively to end the pandemic of violence against women and girls in Gippsland. Eliminating violence against women and girls in Gippsland demands active participation and commitment from our leaders – regardless of your gender.
So often we hear comments such as “but it’s not all men” or “what about men, they are victims too” or “misogyny isn’t helpful language.”
I am suggesting that addressing the cultural origins of our gender unequal community is where we need to start.
The “not all men argument” is underpinned by a ‘good men versus bad man’, narrative and is a form of backlash and resistance. This narrative ignores everyday sexism and violence by attempting to hold one group of men responsible rather than addressing the systemic issues of gender inequality.
“What about men, they are victims too.” The ‘whataboutery’ narrative is also a form of backlash and resistance and serves to minimise the extent of violence against women and girls. It reverses discrimination and frames men as the victims and serves to perpetuate the gendered drivers of violence. Using terminology like misogyny really shouldn’t be a problem to anyone. If it is, they are usually part of the problem. Don’t let calling out the offensive become the offence.
No, not all men are perpetrators of violence, but all men have a responsibility to call it out and help reframe gender inequality and prevent violence against women and girls.
If we don’t genuinely act, then how are we to expect our communities to behave differently to ensure healthy and safe communities now and in the future?
Written by GWH CEO Kate Graham, February 2023.