EDITORIAL | We need more than words to stop violence

As a developed society in the year 2016, we can propel people into space and cure diseases that ravaged our species less than a century ago, but we still haven’t worked out how to stop the atrocities committed against women in our community each day.

The latest police figures show that the rate of domestic violence assaults in Central Hunter (which encompasses the Maitland and Cessnock areas) is double the state average. Police are responding to about 20 domestic violence-related calls for help each day.

Twenty. Every day. Just reflect on what that means for a few minutes: violence against women is so rife in our community that police are getting the equivalent of one call for help almost every hour.

Carrie's Place women and children's refuge CEO Jan McDonald. Picture: Simone De Peak

Carrie's Place women and children's refuge CEO Jan McDonald. Picture: Simone De Peak

And that says nothing about the number of cases that are being left unreported, as many victims suffer in silence.

As of Monday, 68 women across Australia had been killed in acts of domestic violence so far this year. This is beyond a tragedy.

Friday is White Ribbon Day – an international occasion for men to take an oath against domestic violence and make a vow never to hurt a woman.

But the fact that, in 2016, we still need a day set aside for men to pledge their opposition to inflicting violence against women says something about how we have failed as a civilisation. 

The pledges taken each year on White Ribbon Day should be part of our lives every day – not in words, but in action.

It’s becoming clearer that doing away with violence against women requires a serious cultural shift. It’s not good enough to simply condemn physical or psychological violence. It’s also about calling out people who say things and behave in a way that perpetuates an undercurrent of sexism that’s still very much alive today in many parts of our society. That means not laughing at so-called ‘locker room’ references about women or excusing someone’s sexist remarks or actions because of their apparent education level.

In a year when the world’s super power has elected a man as its president who was recorded on tape bragging about his ability to blatantly sexually assault women, it’s never been clearer that western society still has a long way to go before this problem is resigned to history.

It’s up to everyone to end domestic violence by going beyond the pledge and striving to change the culture every day.