OPINION: Real men speak out and act

 Newcastle Woman of the Year Helen Cummings is a brave survivor of domestic violence who has shared her story.
Newcastle Woman of the Year Helen Cummings is a brave survivor of domestic violence who has shared her story.

I WAS horrified to read recent media reports that a Sydney man has been charged with domestic violence offences after he allegedly poured bleach down his partner’s throat. Police said, during an  argument, the man allegedly pushed his partner to the floor and forcibly poured bleach down her throat. 

These kinds of acts read like a bad horror film or TV crime show but  they are real. Violence by men against their partners goes on every day in Australia – including here in the Hunter.

 At least one woman dies at the hands of a former or current male partner every week in Australia. And one in four women experience violence by an intimate partner. More than 132,000 Australian women will have experienced violence at the hands of a current or former partner in the past 12 months. That is enough women to fill Hunter Stadium four times over.

These women are supposed to be the people that these men love and are in a relationship with. They are often the mother of the man’s children. 

It is hard to comprehend these figures and often it is easy to dismiss them as statistics. 

There are 77 Australian women who have been killed by such violence this year alone. Those women were someone’s mother, daughter, sister, friend or  colleague. The speaker at this year’s Hunter White Ribbon Day breakfast, Angela Ivancevic, is a woman who, thankfully, survived violence from her former partner. 

Every year, at our White Ribbon Day breakfast, brave survivors of domestic violence such as Angela and Newcastle Woman of the Year Helen Cummings, share their stories. Local women who should not have that happen to them.      

There is hope. Our Prime Minister has spoken out on the subject. More than giving lip service, he has pledged financial support. 

He called it for what it is – the great shame of Australia and a national disgrace. 

The Australian of the Year Rosie Batty has also done great work to elevate the issue among the Australian public. She reminds us that domestic violence has broader implications for families and workplaces. Nathan Towney, a Wiradjuri man and local high school deputy principal, will do the same when he speaks at our breakfast on the impact of violence on families. 

Many men are joining the White Ribbon Day cause and will attend our breakfast. I am inspired by fellow White Ribbon Day ambassadors including local men such as Kevin Maher, who are developing practical community programs and working to help other men to not be violent towards women. 

I was at Abermain Public School last week to give a talk to the  kids about White Ribbon Day and why it is important. 

We need to get boys and young men to learn a word raised by the Prime Minister – RESPECT.  

You don’t put bleach down a woman’s throat if you respect them. You don’t respect women if you think it is OK to tell them what to wear, whom they can see, or hit them because you are having a bad day.  As Mr Turnbull also said: “It should be un-Australian not to respect women.” 

We have 90 high school students from 18 high schools coming to our breakfast. Tyler Chapman from Lambton High will read a moving poem, Remember My Name, to remind us that the 77 people in the fatality statistics were real women. It is the next generation of men who will be the solution to this problem. 

That is why White Ribbon Day is so important. 

Yes, there is violence perpetrated by women against men. There is no excuse for that violence either. The vast majority of violence is perpetrated by men against women. Today is about tackling that problem. 

Violence against women by men is a men’s problem, not a problem for women to solve. Men must take ownership and do something about it.  We need to help other men, our mates, to  stop being violent towards women. 

There are three simple things Hunter men can do on White Ribbon Day to start to help fix this problem. 

1. Remember why it is important.

 2. Take the new White Ribbon oath and safely do something if you know violence is occurring. 

3. Wear a White Ribbon. 

Even if you’re not a perpetrator of violence towards women, it is happening around you, every day. You can help to stop it.  

I swear I will stand up, speak out and act to prevent men’s violence against women. 

Be a man, do the same. 

Jon Chin is a White Ribbon Day Ambassador and the chairman of the Hunter White Ribbon Day breakfast committee. whiteribbon.org.au  #HunterWhiteRibbon


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