OPINION: Take an oath: say no to domestic violence

AS  you read this article, hundreds of Hunter men will be sitting down to breakfast at Newcastle Panthers to show that they will never condone or excuse violence toward women.

November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women or White Ribbon Day. 

The shooting of 14-year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai, who advocated for the right of girls to attend school, is a stark reminder of the enormity of the challenges in trying to achieve gender equality. 

Violence toward women is not just a problem in other countries. 

It is a major problem in the Hunter. 

At past White Ribbon Day breakfasts we have heard some spine-chilling and sickening accounts of violence committed on women by men. 

Donna Carson told us how she was doused with petrol and set on fire by her then boyfriend on her 37th birthday. 

I will never forget the tragic story of young love gone wrong, leaving 16-year-old student Angela Barker battered, brain-damaged and confined to a wheelchair.

These stories grab the headlines, but there is a more insidious and common physical and emotional abuse of women by men in our region.

This year’s breakfast will focus on domestic violence and its impact at home as well as at the workplace.

For the first time at a local White Ribbon Day breakfast, we will look at sexual abuse from an Aboriginal perspective. 

In some Aboriginal communities violence is said to affect up to 90per cent of families.

The issue of sexual assault within indigenous communities has historically been seen as a “taboo” subject, but is now being spoken about.

Local resident Deanne Slee will speak today as a survivor of sexual abuse from her father and as a witness of domestic violence.

Ludo McFerran, the overseer of the Domestic Violence Workplace Rights and Entitlements Project, together with Newcastle Trades Hall Council secretary Gary Kennedy, will talk today about domestic violence in the workplace.

The impact of violence against women at the workplace is not all that well known, but recent findings show that two-thirds of women who experience violence by a current partner are in paid employment and that nearly half of these women reported that the violence affected their capacity to work.

Domestic violence is conservatively estimated to directly cost employers more than $480million per annum.

A KPMG reported estimated the cost of violence against women and their children to the Australian economy to be $13.6billion in 2008-09. 

If there is no reduction in current rates, it will spiral to an estimated $15.6billion by 2021-22. 

These figures far outweigh the $10.8billion the federal government injected to stimulate the economy during the global financial crisis.

Violence towards women should be eliminated because it is wrong, not because it affects the economy. 

The point of raising these statistics is to show that violence towards women has wide-ranging consequences and is an issue for everyone in our community, not just the perpetrators.  

The public discussion about violence against women that was spurred by Jill Meagher’s murder suggests that there are still plenty of people who remain unconvinced that violence against women is a major problem. 

Perhaps this belief is engendered by the fact that violence against women is one of the least visible – but most widespread – forms of violence around the world. 

One in three women in Australia will suffer some form of physical or sexual violence during their lifetime, with devastating effects on their health and wellbeing, as well as on their families and communities.

To overcome this scourge we need to change a perception – so deep seated it is often unconscious – that women are fundamentally of less value than men.

Education is key. 

As most violence towards women is committed by men, men must take the lead.

We need to teach our children, particularly boys, that violence against women is wrong. 

I hope that it is a lesson taken away by the 50 year-11 boys from the region’s schools who are guests of this morning’s breakfast. 

White Ribbon Day is about men standing up and saying no to violence against women. 

We ask men to take this oath: “I swear: never to commit violence against women, never to excuse violence against women, and never to remain silent about violence against women.”

You owe it to your wife, partner, sister, mother and daughter.

Jon Chin is the secretary manager of Hexham Bowling Club, White Ribbon Day ambassador and the co-convener of the local White Ribbon Day Breakfast Committee. Visit www.whiteribbon.org.au