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Misperception Intervention: 12 Sexual Assault Myths You Need to Know

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:

Unfounded: Police dismiss 1 in 5 sexual assault claims as base…

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

Posted by The Globe and Mail on Friday, February 3, 2017

Myth #5: Rapists are abnormal or deranged

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?

Ummmm, sorry, but if you’re passed out, you can’t consent. This video based on a blog post by RockStar Dinosaur Pirate Princess, covers the issue perfectly:

Cuppa tea anyone?

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

Is your door safe?

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.

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3 common excuses for not providing domestic violence leave and how to blow the lid off them

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.

For what it’s worth, I vote yes (and you should too)! But not everyone does, including the Minister for Women and Employment and the Minister for Finance.

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.

And by the way, what IS the incentive for hiring women anyway? Is it because it seems to be socially acceptable to pay them less?

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.

In conclusion:

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?

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Get your thinking cap on: 16 Days of Activism are nearly here!

Hello Dear Reader!

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:

>Everyday Feminism

>Our Watch

>Australian Women Against Violence Alliance

>WESNET

>Clementine Ford

>Tara Moss

>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!

Xx Heidi

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5 reasons why everyone should learn about domestic violence

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.

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.

Domestic violence is often hidden in plain sight. Surrounded by silence, shame and coercive control, victims are often prevented from reaching out. But in a world where nearly one woman a week is being murdered by her current or former partner, it’s time for us to reach in. Someone you know could be next; and it’s totally preventable.

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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