Rosie Batty urges Shepparton to tackle family violence

Last week Rosie Batty challenged our community to play its part in tackling family violence, and highlighted the impact of such violence has on the workplace and wider community.

Ms Batty noted the small number of men attending her presentation but said there were still grounds for optimism. Although we still have a long way to go before violence against women and children is a thing of the past, we have, nonetheless, come a long way from only a few years ago.

Ms Batty noted that drugs and alcohol and mental ill-health are not, as some suggest, the root cause of violence against women. Violence is a choice. It is about power and control. And many men still feel a sense of entitlement, a sense reflected in our language: the ‘rule of thumb’ referring to the Victorian notion that a husband and father was legally entitled to beat his wife or child with anything so long as it was no wider than his thumb.

She said we need to acknowledge the gendered nature of violence against women and its roots in inequality. It is only through creating a more gender equal world that we can hope to live in a less violent world. We need to move beyond gender stereotypes. Gender should not define us. Opportunities should be available to all, regardless of gender. It was unacceptable, for example, that women were still paid less than their male counterparts in the workplace.

We all need to call out inappropriate behaviour, Ms Batty said. If left unchallenged, inappropriate behaviour continues. And men were best placed to bring about change, by calling out the unacceptable behaviour of other men. Clearly, not all men understand that their behaviour is unacceptable, but if other men don’t call them out, we will never see change.

Ms Batty acknowledged that as a privileged white woman, her messages around violence against women and children get more traction than they would if she was from a multicultural or linguistically diverse background. The voices of women from these backgrounds aren’t always heard, much less respected, but they should be. We need to create space for these voices and stories.

Ms Batty also noted that her Shepparton visit coincided with vigils held across Victoria in memory of Eurydice Dixon, the young woman raped and murdered in Melbourne earlier this month. Ms Batty pointed to the debate raging in the media and online following Ms Dixon’s murder, with some commentators victim blaming – placing the onus for women’s safety on women themselves – and others, more rightly, placing the onus on men to change their behaviour and to challenge the inappropriate and violent behaviour of other men.

Turning to the workplace, Ms Batty noted that employees can’t always separate their private life from their work life, and that family violence presents challenges for employees, co-workers and employers alike, with many co-workers and employers not knowing how best to support a colleague or employee.

Ms Batty encouraged employers to make themselves aware of organisations and services, like Goulburn Valley CLC, that work with people experiencing family violence so they can make appropriate referrals. She also highlighted the fact that a woman is most at risk when she leaves her partner. This is the time when she is most vulnerable. And we should never underestimate the fear and danger faced by women at these times, and the potential for colleagues and employers to make a positive difference at this time.

The solutions to the problem sit with all of us. And the challenge is how we can work together to effect change; from how we parent our children; to challenging traditional gender roles that limit our opportunities and perpetuate inequality; to driving cultural change in our communities and workplaces; and challenging our own and other’s inappropriate attitudes and behaviours.

Thanks to the Shepparton Chamber of Commerce for bringing Ms Batty to Shepparton.

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