Hey you! I'm Heidi. I've been working in the anti-violence against women sector as an educator, advocate and activist for the past 10 years. I work with survivors and advocates to ensure that their voices are heard in the development of policies, laws and programs, to overcome structural oppression and injustice. I’m a coffee addict and a social justice nerd and I’m here to help you become a sexual violence saboteur and a domestic violence disrupter.
Do you have any pet “hates”? I have heaps, let me tell you! The one that probably gets under my skin the most is when people talk about “abusive relationships.” Abusive relationships aren’t real. They simply do not exist.
Abusive relationships don’t exist?
Am I saying that domestic violence doesn’t happen? No, quite the opposite. What I’m saying is that perpetrators are the source of the abuse, not the relationship. A “relationship” is a social construct- like time, money, fashion, or race- it cannot be the source of violence. It’s just a label we’ve given to something that we’ve ascribed meaning to based on our shared understanding of how we perceive our social reality. In other words, it has no agency. A relationship is no more able to be abusive than is time. Ow! 5PM, that hurt!
Not to me. If we say that a relationship is abusive then that means that the relationship is the source of the abuse. If the relationship is the source of the abuse, then it means that both partners are being abused- or at the very least is it unclear who is being abused and who is abusing.
Side note: I am a word-nerd. There is something deeply satisfying about finding the perfect word to specifically describe what you need it to, and the word we are looking for right about now, is obfuscation:
Do you see what just happened?
By saying “abusive relationship” instead of “perpetrator” or “abuser,” we have shared out responsibility for the violence to both parties. This means the victim is now somewhat responsible for the violence and the perpetrator does not have to be heldfully accountable for his/her actions.
A strategy of a perpetrator is to evade responsibility. They do this by:
minimising the abuse: acting like the violence wasn’t a big deal, oris being blown out of proportion;
denying the violence: acting like it didn’t happen;
excusing the abuse: acting like they should be permitted an allowance for their mistake because it was justified; or
blaming the victim for the abuse: holding the victim responsible for the abuse, by virtue of the view that the victim deserved it in some way or brought it on themselves.
This helps them to maintain their control and continue to be abusive. Perpetrators are enabled to be abusive because society largely supports them. I’m not saying people outrightly cheer them on or anything. It’s much more ingrained and much more subtle than that.
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It’s little things that show the abuser the way they are behaving isn’t that bad, like asking the victim what she was wearing when she was sexually assaulted- as if that had anything to do with it. It’s the constant message women are sent that they won’t be believed; that they are not worthy; that it’s partially (or solely) their fault- that it’s the “relationship” that is violent, so they kinda deserved what they got by virtue of being in the relationship. You know, because it’s so easy to leave and all. All of these tiny little beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that we’ve been socially trained to partake in, tell perpetrators that their behaviour isn’t that bad, that they’re kinda just victims in this whole thing because they’re basically entitled to dominate women that way.
So that’s why it makes my skin crawl- because it makes us colluders with abusers. It helps mask the violence, blame the victim, and protect the perpetrator.
The way we talk about stuff matters
Seems so minuscule, but the way that we use language- the way that we talk everyday, can either perpetuate inequality and injustice; or it can interrupt the attitudes, thoughts and actions that sustain and enable violence against women. Yes- your words make a difference! We have more power to disrupt domestic violence and create social change than we realise.
As a society, we commonly understand family and domestic violence to be “wife beating”. Because of this misconception, we often scratch our heads and wonder, “why doesn’t she just leave?”, because we KNOW that if someone tried to beat us up, that’s what we’d do; we wouldn’t stand for it! We’d fight back or we’d run away and that would be that- no more violence. Right? But family and domestic violence isn’t that simple (no epidemic is). FDV is not about beating someone up (although that could be an element of a perp’s abuse pattern, for sure). FDV is very different to our typical or traditional understanding of “violence”.
So then… what the flip is family and domestic violence?
Great question. It’s a bit tricky to give you a straight (or short) answer on this, because there is no universal definition. For example, FDV is not a mental illness (nor is it caused by mental illness). This means you won’t find some sort of universal definition in an authority such as the DSM-5. Social science definitions of family and domestic violence vary, but have similar elements (such as I’ve described above).
Family violence (violence towards a family member) and domestic violence (violence towards an intimate partner), are not necessarily the same. The dynamics between family members may differ from dynamics between intimate partners and the implications may be different as well. However, family violence is often considered to be a broader term, so definitions of “family violence” will often also encompass domestic violence. Different definitions may use one or both terms depending on the required level of specificity. When speaking in general terms, it is acceptable to reference “family and domestic violence”.
Our current social science understanding of FDV is based on years of history, research and advocacy. But, definitions of FDV differ depending on the purpose for which we are using it. You will find it defined in many places such as Commonwealth and/or State:
Social science definitions (often used in policies and programs) are generally broader and more robust, reflecting the latest research.
Legal definitions are usually narrower and less nuanced. For example, because the law is often incident-based, a legal definition might miss the true impact or depth of an abuser’s behaviour. This could happen if legislation frames FDV as an “act” or “incident” rather than “a pattern of ongoing behaviour”. If the law looks at each “incident” as isolated or as separate events, then it might fail to see how each “incident” forms part of a larger strategy to reinforce victim compliance. This would have the effect of making the abuse seem less serious than in actually is. Depending on the area of law, the impact could be that the abuser is not held to an adequate level of accountability, or that the victim is not properly compensated, etc.
The other issue with legal definitions is when there is a discrepancy between how the law was intended and how it is interpreted by magistrates and lawyers. This often happens when laws are designed or amended without adequately consulting those who will be affected by them (or those who work within the system to which the law applies). So even though law makers have good intentions, if they are unaware of the system in which the law will operate, it may not be applied the way they intended. #contextiseverything #jussayin
I don’t want to get unwieldy on you here, so all I’m going to say is that legislative definitions are catching up to social science understandings. States have been progressing definitions found in civil and even criminal jurisdictions over the past decade or more. For example, in 2009/2010 we had this massive consultation into family violence and the law. A butt load of recommendations were made. Some of the recs related to amending the Family Law Act, so in 2011, the definition of family violence in the Family Law Act (a federal instrument) was broadened to catch up with social science understandings of FDV. This has seen a lot of other federal and state-based instruments follow suit (often even mirroring or referring to the s4AB definition).
There are still challenges, discrepancies and limitations between and with definitions and instruments, but we’re getting there.
No universal definition
Definitions will vary depending on the purpose of the instrument defining it
Social science definitions are generally broader and keep a better pace with research
Legal definitions are usually narrower, but are catching up to social science definitions
How is FDV different from interpersonal violence where the offender is a stranger?
Let’s take a look. I’ve made a handy chart below.
Violence towards a stranger
Family and domestic violence
Typically no or limited relationship between the victim or perpetrator (typically nothing to lose if you report it)
Typically perpetrated by a loved one (could mean there are kids, mortgages, pets, rental, joint bank accounts, jobs, income – more to lose if you report it)
The violence is typically a one-off incident and the violence typically ends after said incident
Violence manifests in various forms and in an ongoing pattern, which creates a vortex of fear and control
Violence typically used to control the situation, or the person in the moment
Violence is typically used to control the person’s life
Often a criminal offence (can mean a clearer path to justice/remedy)
Often relies on a constellation of behaviours some criminal (some not) to reinforce fear and compliance (can be harder to achieve justice)
Victims typically men
Victims typically women
Perpetrators typically men
Perpetrators typically men
What implications does this have?
Relationship between victim and offender We know that with FDV there is a relationship between the victim and offender (unlike abuse against strangers). What we often forget though, is that because of this relationship, victims of FDV may have more barriers to reporting than victims who are strangers to their perpetrators. They might: have children, blended families, or shared pets with the perpetrator; have a joint mortgage, lease, loan, or bank account with the perpetrator; face threats of ongoing violence or fatal injuries if they leave; and have to consider heaps of other factors of the relationship that could have negative implications for the victim if they report the violence.
Duration of abuse We might fail to recognise (and this is an extra tricky one) that unlike violence perpetrated by a stranger, FDV is typically not just an “incident” (which incidentally, is the language that our legal system typically uses). This means FDV is typically never just a one-off event, but rather it’s just that the system might only focus on a particular “incident” or “act of abuse”. In reality, a perpetrator will need to rely on a range of ongoing violent, coercive and controlling behaviours to reinforce their dominance. This essentially creates a vortex of fear and control; an environment where the victim never really feels safe, never really feels in control and is afraid to get help or support, because of the stated or implied “repercussions” of “falling out of line” or not complying with the perpetrator’s demands, and a thousand more reasons.
Purpose of violence We also regularly fail to distinguish that violence towards a stranger, is typically used to control the situation (or to control the victim in the moment), while violence towards family/intimate partners is ongoing and controls their lives.
Pathways to justice/categorisation of violence We might also fail to understand that violence towards strangers often falls into the realm of an offence. This means remedies or justice may be more accessible. In contrast, FDV will rely on an entire constellation of violent behaviours. Each “incident” reinforces the control and the threat of more violence. Not all forms of FDV is recognised as illegal behaviour or an offence. This can make it tricky to achieve justice. But even where there is a clear path to the legal system, access to justice may be difficult. Victim blaming and secondary abuse (to the victim, by the system) are an all too common experience for survivors.
Victimisation Lastly, we often fail to notice (or admit) that overwhelmingly, it is women who are the victims of men’s FDV (although men are also largely the perpetrators of other types of violence).
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A perpetrator of FDV is always responsible for their violence as they have made the choice to use and continue using violence to their benefit. However, there are broader cultural factors that drive violence, particularly violence against women. This includes power structures such as gender inequality, racism, colonialism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Basically- the dominant culture which we subscribe to, marginalises particular groups in policy and legislation, resources, and power generally, causing these power structures to exist. These power structures minimise or limit the rights or social inclusion of women, people of colour, people who’ve had their lands colonised (stolen), people with a diverse sex or gender, etc…
If you are part of the dominant group, then you will often reap the benefits of norms, policies and structures that were made in your favour. By virtue of not being oppressed, you would have access to resources, power, voice, and respect that other groups do not. If you have always had access to a particular privilege- it might feel more like a right. It can be very easy to develop a sense of entitlement and even a subconscious belief that you are better, or more deserving than people in the non-dominant groups. Most people with privilege believe this in some way or another, whether we realise it or not. We have been socially conditioned to believe this (consciously or unconsciously) our entire lives.
Domestic violence can often mirror and leverage these oppressions. Abusers typically have a sense of entitlement and treat their victims like they have a particular role in society. They will often rely on social norms to justify their abuse or to hide in plain sight.
What are we doing about it?
If FDV (particularly in the context of violence against women) is driven by gender and other intersecting inequalities, then part of addressing the issue needs to include working towards social equality. To this end, we have a National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. The Plan seeks to reduce violence against women by a range of strategies related to gender inequality and to some degree, other intersecting inequalities. The Plan runs for 12 years (2010-2022). The Plan is supported by 3-year “rolling Action Plans” and also by individual State and Territory jurisdictional plans.
The Plan seeks to achieve 6 key outcomes:
Communities are safe and free from violence.
Relationships are respectful.
Indigenous communities are strengthened.
Services meet the needs of women and their children experiencing violence.
Justice responses are effective.
Perpetrators stop their violence and are held to account.
Under-pinning principles of the Plan The Plan recognises that policy solutions to address domestic violence and sexual assault must take into account the diverse backgrounds and needs of women and their children. Thus, the Plan is under-pinned by the following values and principles:
Domestic violence, family violence and sexual assault cross all ages, races and cultures, socioeconomic and demographic barriers, although some women are at higher risk.
Everyone regardless of their age, gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, culture, disability, religious belief, faith, linguistic background or location, has a right to be safe and live in an environment that is free from violence.
Domestic violence, family violence and sexual assault are unacceptable and against the law. Governments and other organisations will provide holistic services and supports that prioritise the needs of victims and survivors of violence.
Sustainable change must be built on community participation by men and women taking responsibility for the problems and solutions.
Everyone has a right to access and to participate in justice processes that enable them to achieve fair and just outcomes.
Governments acknowledge the legacy of past failures and the need for new collaborative approaches to preventing violence against Indigenous women.
Responses to children exposed to violence prioritise the safety and long-term wellbeing of children.
The Plan is by no means perfect. It is not the golden answer we have been waiting for that will solve all our problems. But, it is a massive, coordinated, national strategy, which we will make stronger and more effective the more we as individuals step up and demand better for our society. Effective prevention work requires consistent messaging, action and advocacy on individual, relational, community and societal levels in order to reinforce the desired shift in our culture. This means we all have a role to play.
How can I make a difference?
In so many ways my friend. Which means you can pick an area for action that can intersect with your interests and your skills (or skills you wish to develop). Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
join a lobbying/activist group (can’t find one? start your own on MeetUp!),
volunteer at a women’s refuge, or a help-line,
buy or donate useful stuff to a refuge (pro tip: call first and see what their residents actually need- they get a lot of essentials, so sometimes movie tickets or something you might consider to be a bit of a treat or luxury can be nice),
Use your $ and your voice as social change tools. If you know a product/brand/musician/athlete perpetuates inequality or supports violence in some way, boycot their product/event/etc. For example, if you know there’s a sporting event that is showcasing players who haven’t been held accountable for their violence- don’t buy tickets, don’t attend and encourage others not to do so.
There is a way for you to be a domestic violence disrupter or a sexual assault saboteur- you just need to find it. For more ideas, check out these pages by OurWatch.
Still have questions?
Let me know any questions you have in the comments below.
Being a perpetrator of abuse is hard work. Despite having a reputation for not being able to control their violence, the opposite is actually true; perpetrators exercise extreme control. That’s their M.O. So, they plan; they make conscious choices to be violent, so they can stay in control and dominate; then, they execute. Here’s a bit of a perp play by play. Be warned, it’s a bit brutal- not physically brutal, but brutally revealing about how much manipulation, coercion and mind-fucking a perps use.
Courtesy, charm, and charisma
Charisma and charm are what gets you in the door. You have to plan this. If you are abusive straight up, you won’t be able to suck anyone into your web of control and domination. Deception is key. You must appear to be super sweet, caring, charming- and maybe you really are some of these things. But not always, and not for long.
Overstep the line
This requires a bit of planning too, because if it seems too ridiculous or if you take it too far too early, she will see right through it and run for the hills. You need to pick a strategy that you can easily justify (with your own logic, of course). Maybe something like demonstrating extreme jealousy, or check up on her way more than would be considered normal. Start small (ish).
Pretend you only did it because you “care so much”
Ok, now it’s time for the rubber to hit the road. Excuse or justify your actions by explaining how deeply you care for her. Like, she’s probably never had anyone care about her so much that they would look out for and worry for her this much, so really- she’s just not used to being so cared for and getting so much attention. But that’s how much you care. You would move mountains just to know she was ok; even if you’ve already checked in on her 14 times, in 3 hours. Legit.
More courtesy, charm, and charisma
Now that you’ve convinced her to rationalise your abuse with your excuses, pull out more of that old charm and charisma and work that into your regimen. Move fast if you want to establish that she belongs with you. She is your property after all, right?
More boundary breaches
Chuck in a few more boundary breaches for good measure. Depending at where you’re at in the relationship you might be able to scale up into larger, more invasive breaches, but make sure it’s something that you are able to craft an excuse for. Here are some ideas, but every context will be different, so try and choose something that will be just the right breach to keep your victim in line. Maybe you breach her privacy and read her emails and text messages without her consent; or maybe you hide something of hers that you know will upset her; maybe you make up a lie about her to a close family member- get creative here.
Once you’ve invaded her boundaries, be sure to convince her that they were unnecessary or unreasonable boundaries anyways, or that she deserved to have them breached. If you’re really good- you can try and convince her that the breach never actually occurred. Fuck with her mind! Make her think she’s paranoid; make her think she has trust issues; make her think she needs counselling! It will help you to maintain your control. Use your discretion- whatever is going to be the best strategy for your particular victim and circumstance.
Do something that deeply scares her
Ok, now you’re ready to pull out the big guns. You need to do something (or at least make her believe that you are capable of doing said thing) that deeply makes her fear for her safety, or even her life.
Or something like that. You can apologise, which might be effective depending on what you did, or you can try and justify, or make excuses for what you did, you could blame her for “making you do it,” or you could try and minimise the gravity of what you did; make her believe she’s blowing it out of proportion; she’s being unreasonable; she’s just a bit “nutty”.
Micromanage her life
Alright, now you need to make her acutely aware that YOU are in CONTROL. She is your prisoner/property. This one is a bit of a three-stepper.
Enforce unreasonable “rules” that she must adhere to. Really ridiculous, unreasonable things like having to constantly check in with you before she does stuff/goes places, or having to account for every cent she spends, or only being able to dress a particular way, having to fold the towels a particular way- get creative about it.
Now, leverage the fear you have created from the “doing something that deeply scares” her step. This will ensure she complies with all your weird-ass, ridiculous crap, because if she doesn’t, she knows what you are capable of.
Be sure to change the “rules” on a whim and without letting her know. Act as if she should know.
Punish for non-compliance
Even though you’re holding the threat of enforcing the act of whatever it is that deeply scares her, over her head (which in most cases is enough to maintain control, if you’re sprinkling in acts of abuse here and there), you might still have to pull out the big guns once in a while.
Despite the stereo-types, victims aren’t passive agents. They actually always resist (in various ways- some less obvious then others), so you will need to work to overcome acts of resistance, in order to dominate and maintain control.
Progressively undermine her relationships
In order to maintain control, you must find a way to sabotage her relationships. Feed her lies about family/friends; punish her for visiting them; make your home hostile so they don’t want to visit; just find a way to make her feel isolated, like she’s all alone in the world, like you’re the only one that really cares about her.
Sprinkle in a few acts of kindness
This isn’t going to work if she can’t see any happy times at all, or hold out hope that things might get better. You must sprinkle in demonstrations of kindness, or days of relief. This will also help when you continually try to blame her for YOUR behaviour, or minimise the extent of your actions. If you can show her there are normal/nice days, and convince her that the abuse isn’t that big of a deal, or it’s her fault, by continuously fucking with her mind, then you are set. She will think she’s somehow responsible for your behaviour and keep trying to “get things right.” Or if you deny and minimise it enough, she might not even be able to recognise that what you are doing is abuse and that YOU are the source of the violence.
Abuse the victim relentlessly
Keep up the abuse. Remember to use different kinds (emotional, physical, spiritual, technology, sexual, etc) and different behaviours too, so that you can reinforce your eco-system of fear.
Make her think she’s crazy
We’ve already alluded to this a bit in some of the other points, but it’s important enough to warrant its own heading. You gotta make her think she’s losing her shit. At least a little. Shift the blame; pretend it didn’t happen; act like it’s no big deal; pretend she’s overreacting; make her think she’s paranoid. Maybe even convince her she needs counselling for her “problems”. Whatever works, right?
Abuse the victim relentlessly
An essential part of any domination strategy. Continue with your conscious, strategic and somewhat creative abusive behaviours. Remember what I said about having a broad cross-section of types and also utilising a repertoire of behaviours; you need to create a whole “eco-system of fear.”
Abuse the victim relentlessly
Keep it up.
Make other people think she’s crazy and make sure they know you’re a saint
Ok, now that you’re starting to convince her that she might be losing her shit, make sure that she has no credibility to the outside world as well. How to do this? Flex your deception muscles! Don’t be shy now, we know you’re the master of this. Put on a great guise, pull out your charisma and really play the husband/father of the year role. Really lay it on thick that you are Mr Right; act so attentive and charming to her in front of others. If you’re really good, you will be able to look super caring in front of others, while actually being abusive or threatening to her at the same time.
Example: because nobody knows your abuse patterns (except for her), if you see her talking to a male guest at a family BBQ and this is a trigger for you because you’re incredibly insecure about yourself, you could go up to her and say “honey, you look cold, do you want me to grab you a sweater?” and people will think you’re incredibly caring. But! Because she knows that you use physical abuse to “keep her in line” and often threaten that you will beat her so bad, she’ll need to wear a sweater for a month, you will scare the shit out of her, because she knows you are making a threat point-blank and she knows nobody will believe her if she says that your offer of getting her a sweater, was a threat. Doing things like this will make her look strange or paranoid, because her reaction won’t seem appropriate to your behaviour, so SHE will lose credibility. Nice work!
Abuse the victim relentlessly
Back to work. Spread that web of fear.
Pepper in some random kindness
Don’t forget to leave room for hope and sprinkles of normality.
Tap into your privileges and leverage that shit
This one is great! If you are a member of a dominant group in society or have some kind of privilege that she doesn’t have, leverage the shit outta that! For example, if you are a man and she is a woman- use that to your advantage, dude! Rely on societal injustices and prejudices towards women, to support your abuse. She’s a woman, so obviously, her place in society is to cater to your needs; do all the housework; be submissive; etc. Leverage the power of stereotypes and societal oppression to help you enforce your abusive behaviour and your sense of entitlement.
Well, more or less you’ve pretty much got it down-pat now. All you have to do is wash; rinse; and repeat. Good luck.
And that’s it folks
I told you it was going to be brutal. But I really wanted to communicate how far from “losing control” this type of violence really is, what it actually looks like, how deceptive and manipulative perpetrators can be, and how we as bystanders often get duped or even become complicit. Please note that every victim’s experience will be uniquely different and every perpetrator will rely on a different set of strategies.
What it is: 1-800-Respect is the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service providing information and counselling both online and via telephone.
Why it’s great: You can look for information in three ways: as someone needing help; as a concerned friend or family member; or as a worker/professional. From factsheets, to FAQs- they’ve got you covered.
What it is: Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) is an independent NGO promoting and undertaking research to drive policy and practice responses to violence against women.
Why it’s great: They produce a wide variety of publications for various audiences; super in-depth technical papers, state of knowledge papers which scope out the knowledge on a particular issue; research to practice and policy papers, which summarise key findings; “fast facts;” and more.
What it is: Our Watch is a national organisation promoting the primary prevention of violence against women.
Why it’s great: They have a heap of “projects and partnerships” that you can support or use as resources to inform or support your violence prevention work, as well as resources for understanding facts, figures, myths, and ideas about how you can make a difference.
What it is: White Ribbon Australia is a male-led campaign to end violence against women. They undertake prevention activities such as school programs, workplace accreditation, ambassador programs and various events.
Why it’s great: The best resources on this website are the research papers that are undertaken by some of my favourite #VAW researchers, but similar to Our Watch, there are resources to learn more and also ideas for taking action as well.
What it is: The Australian Women Against Violence Alliance is one of the 5 national women’s alliances that are funded by the Government to facilitate networking and information sharing of women’s organisations, in addition to providing policy advice and recommendations regarding (in this case) violence against women.
Why it’s great: The best part of this website is the “weekly updates” that set out sector/news updates on a weekly basis in relation to violence against women.
The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children
What it is: The National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children is a national 12 year blueprint for reducing violence against women in Australia.
Why it’s great: On the website you can access a copy of the National Plan, as well as each of the 3-year Action Plans (which address implementation of said plan). These are great materials if you want to be across the policy landscape relating to violence against women. Additionally, the website houses research reports that were undertaken leading up to the formulation of the plan (if you want to get a sense of the historical identified barriers and problems to addressing violence against women), as well as some current research papers and consultations concerning violence against women. You can also find out which of the resources on this blog-post are national plan initiatives.
What it is: Techsafety.org is a website of the Women’s Services Network (WESNET) promoting tech safety (in relation to violence against women) including information regarding the Australian Annual Tech-Safety Summit.
Why it’s great: This website includes a range of resources and handouts regarding technology facilitated abuse and safety strategies in response to the violence.
What it is: The Domestic and Family Violence Bench book is the result of recommendations that came from an epic inquiry into legal responses to family violence undertaken in 2010 by the Australian Law Reform Commission in partnership with the NSW Law Reform Commission.
Why it’s great: The purpose of this bench book is to assist judicial officers to better understand domestic violence so that their judgements can be better informed; best-practice can be promoted; consistency in decision-making can be improved; and victim traumatisation can be reduced.
Now, I’m not saying unicorns aren’t real, but there are some myths out there that perpetuate toxic stereotypes and need to be dispelled ASAP (#rapemyths). Here’s 12. Let’s breakdown this bullshit.
Myth #1: Most instances of sexual assault are perpetrated by strangers after dark, in secluded areas like alleys, carparks and footy ovals
How awesome would it be if the answer to sexual assault prevention was as simple as well-lit car parks and alley-ways? Whoo hoo! #winning! But alas, this myth is complete #bullshit. Well not completely; sexual assault can occur in these places, but statistically speaking women are far more likely to be assaulted by someone they know, often in their own homes, at the hands of a male current or former partner. The myth that we shouldn’t go out at night, could actually put us at further risk of being assaulted at home. Also, while I’m at it, telling women that they shouldn’t go out at night in order to prevent sexual violence is shifting the responsibility for preventing sexual assault from the perpetrator, to the victim.
Myth #2: She was asking for it by the way she dressed/acted
A woman could literally walk down the street naked, drink herself stupid, be off her chops on drugs, be copiously flirting, be a sex addict, or even engaging in particular sexual acts and none of those things in any way would indicate that she wants to sexually assaulted. Nobody wants to be sexually assaulted and nobody deserves to be sexually assaulted.
This myth basically implies that if women don’t fulfil the expected gendered stereotype of being a “lady,” i.e. be timid; don’t dress too sexy; don’t have too much of an opinion; don’t get too drunk; and remember your purpose in life is to fulfil the needs of men, then they deserve to be abused.
News flash: women like to have sex. Women also like to dress sexy. But sex is about choice. You choose whether to have it, you choose WHO to have it with, and you choose how far to go with it. Sexual assault is non-consensual. People do not choose to be sexually assaulted. Sexual assault occurs when the perpetrator thinks he is entitled to a woman’s body. As if she owes him something. Women, don’t owe you shit, yo. Just because women like sex, or dress sexy, does not mean they are asking to be sexually assaulted.
The other edge of the sword of this myth, is that it implies if women do fulfil their expected stereotypical gender roles, that they’ll be safe- that they won’t fall prey to perpetrators of sexual assault. And it couldn’t be further from the truth. Perpetrators don’t discriminate. Sexual assault isn’t about sex, it’s about power and control. Saying she was asking for it by the way she was dressed or behaved, is just a perpetrator tactic to obfuscate responsibility. Don’t fall for it.
Oh! I also wanted to say that saying she was asking for it, also shifts the blame from the perpetrator, right on over to the victim, because if she was “asking for it,” then he can’t be held responsible.
Myth #3: When a man is sexually aroused, he cannot control his sexual urges; he must have sex
This is incredibly insulting (as are many rape myths), towards the vast majority of men who do not commit sexual assault. With one in five women being victims of sexual violence, there is no doubt that sexual violence is a problem of epidemic proportions. Studies have shown, however, that these offences are actually committed by a minority of repeat offenders. Most men do not commit sexual assault. Furthermore, if sexual assault was about a loss of control, then rapists would indiscriminately just rape everyone no matter where they are. But they don’t. They plan, they target, they decide, and they attack. They actively make a choice to assault somebody and they choose locations, times and targets that they perceive will make it easier to do and less likely to get caught. Sexual assault is all about power and control; it is not motivated by sexual gratification.
Myth #4: Women often lie about being sexually assaulted for attention, to get revenge, or because they regret having sex with someone
This myth is another great way of holding victims responsible for the actions of perpetrators- and let’s not forget that perpetrators are overwhelmingly men and victims are overwhelmingly women. So, at the heart of it, we don’t believe or trust women. This actually makes sense. If women are continually perceived as less than men, then why would we believe a woman over a man. If women are continually sexualised to the point of objectification, then they are just props- not real people, so why would we treat them as such?
The truth of the matter is that a false denial is far more common than a false allegation. Most victims of sexual assault never report the crime. A victim of sexual assault could choose not to report for a range of reasons, but one in particular is the fear that she won’t be believed, or that she will be blamed. But a recent 20-month investigation by the Globe and Mail found that even when women do report to authorities, police “decide” on average that 1 case in 5 is “unfounded,” meaning they choose not to believe the victim; decide the crime didn’t happen; close the file; and do not record the case as a statistic. This fascinating investigation gets to the heart about some of the barriers women face when reporting sexual assault, and they even developed a webpage for Canadian women considering reporting sexual assault, so they can put in their post-code and see the likeliness of whether or not their local police force will believe them, as rates between forces varied so incredibly across the country.
*Although a fascinating piece of investigative journalism, the article is a bit on the long-side, if you are feeling a bit time-poor, watch this short synopsis instead:
The Globe discovered thousands of people across Canada are coming forward to police and reporting sexual assault. They just aren't being counted. From Robyn Doolittle. For the full investigation: tgam.ca/unfounded #Unfounded
While, this would be a perfect way of excusing perpetrators from their actions, this myth is dangerous, because it makes us believe that the cause of sexual assault solely occurs as a result of dysfunction on an individual level. If we believe that, then we aren’t required to look at larger issues like #rapeculture, that create and sustain an environment where sexual assault can thrive. More to the point, rapists are primarily everyday people who are integrated into our community. Women are most likely to be sexually assaulted by someone they know (usually current or former partners) and often in their own home. Rapists are people we know and often love. Thinking that only “abnormal” or “deranged” people are abusers, gives us a false sense of security and it provides protection for perpetrators; it hides them in plain sight.
Also, just a note: when people say “abnormal” or “deranged,” they are often referring to mental health issues, but haven’t necessarily been given the tools (like education about mental health) to be able to communicate this in a non-offensive way. Anyways, the point I want to make here is that 1 in 5 people will have a mental illness in their lifetime. To say that people commit sexual assault because they are mentally ill, is highly offensive to people with ill mental health who do not commit sexual assault offences.
Myth #6: If she was drunk or high then she shouldn’t complain about being raped; what did she expect?
The reality of this myth though is that it goes back to the view that women are sex “objects” as opposed to real living, breathing people. If they are just objects, then it doesn’t matter if they’re passed out or not, or give consent or not, because they don’t really have wants, needs or desires, right?
Myth #7: She didn’t fight back / doesn’t have injures to show for it, so she must’ve wanted it
Besides the fact that a rapist might use a weapon, or coercion in order to prevent a victim from fighting back, a common response to sexual assault is for the body to freeze. Just because she doesn’t have bruises or didn’t fight back, does not mean she wanted it and does not mean she deserved it. This is just another way of shifting the blame onto the victim.
Myth #8: People who were sexually abused as children become abusers themselves
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Pump the breaks, yo; this is another dangerous myth. The vast majority of people who are sexually assaulted do not go on to become perpetrators of sexual assault and the vast majority of people who commit sex offences have not been previously victimised.
All we can really say here is that sometimes people who have previously been sexually assaulted may go on to commit a sexual offence. This is what is called a risk factor. A risk factor is not the cause of the abuse, it is simply a contributing factor. There are many risk factors and some carry far more weight than others. For example, the fact that both women and men are predominately sexually assaulted by men, indicates that being a man is a far greater risk factor of committing a sexual offence, than a history of sexual abuse.
Risk factors (although often a point of contention amongst researchers) are important in terms of prevention strategies, but it’s more important to recognise that the risk factors are contributing factors, not direct causes. Just as being a man does not cause one to sexually assault others, either does previous victimhood.
Myth #9: Men don’t get raped
Although men are not sexually assaulted at the same rate as women, it still happens. 1 man in 22 is a victim of sexual assault (compared to 1 in 5 women).
Although rare, it isn’t unheard of for a woman to assault a man. What’s far more likely, however, is for a man to be assaulted by another man. Most perpetrators of sexual violence towards women and towards men, are other men.
Myth #10: Women don’t commit sexual offences
Women aren’t committing sexual offences to the epidemic proportions that men do. Their criminogenic patterns are more geared towards committing poverty-related offences like theft and drug-related offences. That said, it is still 100% in the realm of possibility for women to commit sex offences.
Myth #11: If a man gets an erection/ejaculates then it’s not rape
An erection and ejaculating are both physiological responses to stimuli; they are not synonymous with consent. Sexual activity without consent = sexual assault.
Myth #12: She’s had sex with him previously, so she must have wanted it again
Nope! The notion that a person cannot sexually assault their partner or someone they’ve already had sex with is ridiculous. Just because you did something once, doesn’t mean you’re always up for it. Check out this comic by @allivanlahr from Everyday Feminism:
What other misperceptions have you heard of that need an intervention? Let me know in the comments below. Let’s #breakdownthebullshit
So, late last year I went to Scotland and Ireland for a holiday. Partly because I’ve always wanted to go and partly because I’m obsessed with Outlander the TV series!
Anyways, Scotland is amazing; the scenery is breathtaking and I absolutely love the highlands and the Isle of Sky!
Interestingly, another thing I was also oddly captivated by while we were travelling around Scotland and Ireland, was people’s doors. Yes- you read that correct; I was captivated by doors! There were just so many beautiful, interesting and inspiring doors, that I started taking pictures of them.
My partner thought it was a bit strange that I was taking pictures of doors, but to his (and my) surprise, I’m not the only one; it’s totally a hashtag on Instagram. It’s a not even reserved to just on city- #doorsofedinburgh, or even one country- #doorsofscotland; there is international-level hashtagging going on here- hello, #doorsofinstagram. Check them out- you’ll see what I mean! Clearly doors are just boring in Australia ;)
So, I’m in in the Scottish countryside, looking at some doors that were on buildings originally built in the 1500s, and I start thinking about what it actually means to be a door. Like what does a door actually represent? You know, cause I’m deep like that ;)
And here’s the thoughts running through my mind:
Doors are all about duality- they signify the beginning AND the end of a boundary; they are the gateway from one space/world/designation/area/boundary, to another.
They connect AND they separate spaces; they are welcoming AND they are deterring.
They symbolise potential opportunity AND potential risk.
They help keep you safe AND they lock you out.
They liberate AND imprison.
A door is basically a paradox in a frame. Ambivalence with a knob. Contradiction with a lock.
And I love that. That duality. That balance. That recognition of context. It’s kind of wondrous. Kind of poetic.
I’ve never really stopped to appreciate that duality before because I work in the anti-violence against women sector and in this sector, there is no space for ambivalence. Every door that a survivor walks through in search of help or assistance, must be the right door. There is no room for duality; no space for contradiction; no place for a paradox.There can be no wrong doors. Every door a survivor walks through must represent safety, empathy and connection to resources and services.
And so, although I appreciate poetic metaphors, beautiful architecture, and the Scottish countryside, duality is not a luxury I have time for (except on holidays, of course). I have an obligation to not only ensure that “my door” is safe, but to help others to ensure “their doors” are safe as well, so that they understand the basics of domestic violence and can respond appropriately to survivors.
So…… is your door safe? In the age of digital information, it really doesn’t take too much effort to become better informed. Try our free email course below and see for yourself! Keep your door safe! You never know who might need it.
Domestic violence leave is increasingly being recognised as a necessity and offered by more and more employers. Lately there’s been a lot of rhetoric about whether it should be included in all modern awards.
Below are 3 common excuses for not implementing domestic violence leave and why they’re crap (in my humble opinion). Pull out these rebuttals at work or at the pub; wherever you need to do a bit of disrupting ;)
Excuse #1: It’ll be misused by employees chucking a “Divvie”
Why it’s a crap excuse:
Obviously there’ll be people who abuse it. There always is. That’s why this excuse is so crap. Can you imagine if we didn’t have personal leave entitlements because of the concern that some people might misuse the process? Because of the risk that some people might misuse the process, all those who genuinely need sick leave are denied their entitlements. Ridiculous, right?
Some people will definitely abuse it; most will never use it, including many who need it (because of shame, stigma, stereotypes, you name it, associated with domestic violence victims); but for those who need it and choose to use it, it can make a real difference in their lives.
Excuse #2: It’s too expensive
Why this excuse is bullshit:
Let me ask you this: what is more expensive; 7 days of domestic violence leave, or staff turn-over?
Let’s think this though; new staff bring diversity, fresh perspectives and new ideas, but there is lag-time and there are costs.
Not only do employers need to invest in tangible recruitment costs (like the actual recruitment process, expenses of hiring a temp while the position is vacant, etc), but there’s also less tangible (but just as significant) expenses. This includes things like that transition phase of lost corporate knowledge or expertise (from having someone leave) to having to fill a new vessel with the skills, knowledge and training to fill the gap. It takes time, it takes patience, it can also initially take more supervision and training time.
Realistically, staff turn-over causes a bit of a burden and strain on the organisation. So why would an employer want to go down this path when they already have a perfectly good employee who wants to keep their job, but just needs a little support? Many do not and are leading the way by providing DV leave for their staff.
Additionally, it can be hard to attract committed and skilled staff in the first instance, depending on the industry. Gen Ys are increasing in the workforce as young professionals and they want to work for employers who give a crap. So not only can domestic violence leave help employers retain staff, but it can help them to attract staff in the first place.
Excuse #3: It’ll be a disincentive to hiring women (because they might actually use their entitlements)
Why this is a shit-house excuse:
Ok, so by this line of logic, employers shouldn’t be hiring women anyways, since they’ll have to potentially pay them maternity leave.
What we’re really saying with this excuse is that having an obligation to provide staff (particularly women) with rights to safety and security, isn’t of interest to employers and we can’t be bothered to hold them accountable for it.
But the truth is, Australia’s already growing a track-record of employers who think otherwise and are providing their staff with domestic violence leave provisions.
In relation to those who would STILL stand behind this excuse, my response is that this is why we need to have domestic violence as a protected attribute in anti-discrimination law, so that there are protections from employers who choose to discriminate on such a basis.
Having domestic violence leave available for staff normalises help-seeking behaviour of victims. It tells them that they are entitled to seek help and it normalises the social responsibility of employers and colleagues to respond to victims in a positive way when they choose to seek help.
Domestic violence leave and positive social responses from employers and colleagues can be the support system that a woman might need to leave an abuser.
It can make all the difference in someone’s life, it’s economical, it’s attractive to prospective employees, retentive of current employees and it’s the right thing to do.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments below! Does your workplace provide #dvleave?
Guess what? The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Violence will be happening late November, so get excited!
What? You haven’t heard of it? Never fear- I’ve got your back.
What is it?
Well basically, the 16 Days of Activism is a world-wide campaign that connects two important UN observational Days: 25 November (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and 10 December (International Human Rights Day), thus cementing the ideology that women’s rights are human rights and that violence against women is therefore a human rights issue.
Ok, Heidi, but what does one “do” during the 16 days of Activism?
Oh, touché! It’s really about inspiring action to address violence against women, so it will look different for different people, which means there are heaps of innovative opportunities to catalyse change!
Are you a change-maker?
Contributing to social change doesn’t have to be daunting, un-rewarding, all-consuming work (in fact, most activists would argue otherwise)- it’s about following your passion and making a difference!
And guess what!? It really doesn’t take much to make a difference! Especially this day in age with the help of our dear friend, technology.
So get excited because, I’ve got a butt-load of ideas for you- some are bigger and more time-consuming, others can be super-quick and I’ve also added some medium-effort ideas too! Hopefully, there’s something for everyone.
Alrighty, here we go:
Make a donation to a women’s refuge (hot tip: ring them first and ask if there’s anything in particular they really need, or that their clients would appreciate- sometimes they get so inundated with certain items that they actually NEED other stuff and sometimes it can be nice for their clients to get items like Hoyts movie passes or something that will bring a bit of joy and excitement to what can otherwise be a really challenging and traumatic time in their life) you could just donate $ instead if that’s an option for you.
FUNdraiser anyone? This is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if fundraising is your jam (or you want to have a crack, cause, why not?) then this could be the strategy for you! You could throw a bake sale and enlist all your colleagues/friends/uni mates/whatevs to bake up some goods! Or you could just hold a morning tea, tell everyone to bring a plate and ask your peeps to drop a few dollars- doesn’t have to be much. Or you could throw a collective garage sale! I’m just free-styling off the top my head here, but you probably have way cooler ideas then me, so get creative!
Volunteer! Find a worthwhile cause or organisation to donate your TIME and/or skills to. You will meet new people, learn new things and it will be fun (most-likely, I mean, c’mmon I can’t guarantee that, but it’s my wish for you)!
Find your social justice voice! Ok, Heidi, but what the hell does that even mean? Depends! Be creative, follow your instincts and follow your rage (yes- your rage!). What fires you up? What micro-aggressions are you tired of hearing all the time? Think laterally on this one. It will look like different things for different people:
>Maybe for you it’s writing a letter to the editor of the community paper regarding a ridiculously sexist article you can’t believe was published.
>Devastated about the outcome of the American election? Maybe (yes, I am psychic!) you are sick and tired of hearing Donald’s trump bullshit, bullshit, bullshit (said the same way Sarah Marshal would say to the character Russell Brand plays in Forgetting Sarah Marshal) and what it means that people would rather vote for a white supremacist, misogynistic, self-proclaimed sex offender, over a woman. Write a blog post about that crap, or Tweet it out. Maybe you just share an article on Facebook with a bit of a rant in your post. Share your voice!
>Maybe you think of a really clever response to one of those micro-aggressions that is really pissing you off. Keep it up your sleeve for next time you need it.
>If you’ve got a lot of time, a lot of fire and can mobilise the people-power you could even be so bold as to organise a rally or protest. Dream big, yo. Dream big.
>What about a petition? Is there something that really urkes you? Mobilise the peeps! Or just sign one that is already happening that aligns with your concerns. There’s heaps out there. My favourite two places to start are www.fairagenda.org and www.getup.org.au
>Is there any particular legal, policy or program issue that drives you nuts or is super unfair? Write to your local MP. Their job is to represent their local community and their currency is human stories!!
Ok Heidi, you’re definitely getting me excited here, but do you have any ideas for someone just wanting to dip their toes into this whole activism thing? Sure do, sis! Sure do! You could:
Like or follow a worthwhile organisation, cause, or public figure. Need ideas? Here are some of my faves (but there are many and this is not a comprehensive list), I have a LOT of favourites because there’s so many people/organisations/causes working to make a difference:
>And, sorry for the shameless self-promotion here, but seriously- what kind of blog-post would this be if I didn’t say my own gig- Towards Freedom
Learn! (Yusss, I just said “learn!”, I’m a nerd- sue me ;) during the 16 Days Of Activism there will be “Teach-Ins” on Twitter under the hashtag #GBVTeachIn be sure to check them out.
Teach! Educate other people in whatever way feels right for you. Maybe you have a crack at blogging, maybe you Vlog, maybe you just Tweet, maybe you talk to people IRL. Choose your own adventure- the world is your oyster!
Attend a 16 Days of Activism Event or Activity! I’d post links, but it’s a global event- just google it! There’s usually cool stuff happening near you!!
Check if your workplace has a domestic violence policy! If they don’t, consider lobbying for one. This is important shit!
Bottom line? There is something for everyone and there’s no excuse not to contribute one small thing that when multiplied by other small things globally, will make a HUGE difference! Got more ideas? Share them below!
Thanks for sparing some time to read this! I appreciate it :) Now go forth and get excited!
I’m sure you’ve heard it before- “Violence against women is a GLOBAL social problem of EPIDEMIC proportions.” But if it’s not something that’s happening within the scope of your life in some way, it can be easy to gloss over without understanding the true depth of the issue. Because why would I care about the score of the latest footy match if I have no interest in sports, right? People generally tend to learn about things that have some kind of bearing on their own life.
Well, I’ve got some news for you. Maybe it’s surprising, maybe it’s not; but here are 5 reasons why EVERYONE should learn about domestic violence- even you.
1. Because you already know someone experiencing it
Yep- straight up, not joking and probably more than just one person. 1 in 4 Australian women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner and 1 in 6 Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner.
1 in 4 and 1 in 6. That’s damn scary. These are not just statistics; these are undoubtedly people you know; your colleagues, your friends, your classmates, your clients, your customers. Whenever you’re in a room full of people, a proportion of them have experienced domestic violence.
Would you pay attention to a Stop Sign if you didn’t know what it meant? You can’t see the signs of domestic violence if you don’t know how to read them and if you can’t read them you won’t notice when people in your life might be being abused. Learn to read the signs of domestic violence to support the people in your life to live free from fear.
2. Because you want to respond appropriately to someone who discloses to you
If you can’t recognise the signs that someone might be being abused, it is less likely that someone would tell you. But it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. I have had many people tell me that they had someone disclose abuse to them, but they simply didn’t know what to say or do. They were out of their depth.
I have had even more survivors tell me the harsh things family, friends, nurses, doctors, employers, teachers or police said to them after they disclosed:
– “But what were you wearing?”
– “What did you do that made him so angry?”
– “I can’t imagine him hurting you like that, I’ve never seen him be violent- he’s such a nice guy.”
– “Why would he want to stalk you?”
– “It’s your word against his, love.”
All of these phrases send a message. A message that the victim isn’t really worthy of being believed, or that it mustn’t really be that big of a deal, or that the victim is somehow at fault for the abuse.
People often don’t understand the consequences of their responses and honestly, I don’t think any of them meant to put the victim down and cause further harm. I think they were just trying to better understand the situation. You see, we’ve been so conditioned to blaming victims that we do it all the time without even noticing. But it’s not a survivor’s role to educate us or help us understand domestic violence; that onus is on as a society.
By the time someone is ready to disclose, it’s already bad. So bad. And they’ve been doing so many things to manage the violence and keep themselves safe. But it’s come to a critical point of realisation where they’ve decided to make themselves vulnerable in demonstrating great courage to share their story- to reach out. This is a critical opportunity and the way we respond will actually effect the likeliness of the victim to feel empowered and to continue to reach out for support. If we don’t respond appropriately, victims may blame themselves and think that they deserved it or brought it on themselves (which of course, is just not so).
Responding in a way that makes the victim feel that they are unworthy of belief or somehow responsible for the violence is a form of secondary abuse and can have lasting traumatic effects. It is so important that we seize these opportunities and respond with compassion and empathy. This is why you need to learn about domestic violence and understand it as a social justice problem, because even well-meaning responses can have damaging effects if they are uninformed.
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3. Because you might think that separation equals safety
Separation can actually be the most dangerous time for victims as the perpetrator becomes desperate not to lose control. FYI ex-partners are one of the most common perpetrators of violence that women face. Yet, there are courts who will not grant restraining orders because the victim is now in a refuge or living somewhere else. The assumption is that because they are separated, the violence will end too. Unfortunately, this is rarely true. Think about all the murdered women (and children) we hear about in the media every week- many of them, Rosie Batty herself included had left the relationship. The violence clearly did not stop there.
Yet without a doubt, the most frequently asked question I get, is “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Again, this question is a product of our social conditioning. The need to ask this question says a lot about our own assumptions and judgments of women. When we ask this question we demonstrate our ingrained biases to hold victims (primarily women) accountable for the actions of perpetrators (primarily men); we reveal our privilege of living free from fear; and we expose the assumptions we make about victims of violence.
Learning about domestic violence is crucial; in a world where we’ve been programmed to question what women have done to deserve abuse (or why they don’t leave) rather than why men are abusing (or what are they doing to keep her from leaving), it is important to think critically about what we have been taught about gender and other societal norms so that we can question how legitimate these lessons really were.
4. Because you might not realise you’re contributing to the problem
We struggle with this because we’re accustomed to blaming women for the actions of men. We’ve been told that men and women are equal and on the surface maybe we believe it, but we get sent daily subliminal messages that women are less valuable than men. This reinforces our internal subconscious beliefs, which ensures that we continue to perpetuate this messages ourselves. Classic example: “You run/throw/cry like a girl.” We say things like this everyday without a second thought, but if you think about it, insulting someone by equating their abilities with the opposite gender is pretty sexist. I mean, if it’s an insult for a male to be referred to as a female, that sends a reinforcing message that girls/women are lesser than boys/men.
We’ve been brainwashed and we don’t even know it! Abusive behaviour is always a choice, but if we fail to examine the underlying causes of such behaviours, then we won’t ever be truly able to prevent domestic violence from occurring in the first place.
Domestic violence arises from inequality and injustice. It mirrors and leverages societal power structures like sexism, racism, heteronormativity, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc. If we are unaware of these larger power structures that have such a permeating influence on the way we have been taught to view the world, then we will be unable to see the ways we are sustaining the environment in which domestic violence can occur in the first instance; where perpetrators aren’t held accountable and victims continue to be blamed.
The victims in your life (unbeknownst to you or not) are listening to the way you reacted to Amber Heard’s allegations. They’re watching the stuff you share on social media about Brock Turner. They’re hearing all the things you haven’t said. The way we talk about stuff can reinforce cultural norms and also prevent victims from feeling safe to disclose. Learning about domestic violence is essential for unpacking our internal biases and critically questioning the status quo.
5. Because you probably don’t realise the immense power you have to make a difference
You make an impact on this earth whether you realise it or not. Once we become aware of this we can consciously choose what kind of difference we’re going to make instead of blindly following our social conditioning. Our thoughts and behaviours matter.
We constantly underestimate our own immense power to make a difference in someone’s life. But, you’ve already made profound impacts, the effects of which you will never truly know. Kind words or an understanding smile in a moment of despair can make the world of difference for someone- whether it’s someone you know or a complete stranger.
In a world where truly, fully listening is a lost skill, bearing witness to someone’s story and holding the space for them to be vulnerable and courageously share their feelings is a sacred gift and can make a real impact on someone’s life. Whether it’s giving them the space to fully hear their own story and explore how they really feel for the first time, letting them know you believe them or providing them with some resources or support, it really doesn’t take much to make a difference. But the more informed you are about domestic violence, the more you will realise the power you have to make a difference. Never underestimate the power of humanity.
Make a commitment to yourself, the people in your life and humanity at large; learn about domestic violence so that you can feel confident in your ability to respond with compassion, know that you’re not further perpetuating oppressive social norms and have the strength to interrupt everyday acts of sexism.
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