AUSTRALIA has a major problem that goes to the heart of who we are.
As a workplace chaplain I see the effects of domestic violence every day.
I also note how overwhelmed non-government organisations and government departments are as they act to ensure that partners and families are responded to urgently, supported in their bid to be safe and well.
This is no more in evidence than the thousands of calls to domestic violence crisis lines in the early days of 2016.
It is also underscored by the case manager who told me recently that they were overwhelmed.
Domestic and family violence and sexual assault are crimes that must be stopped.
In Australia, about one in three women has experienced physical violence and as sadly about one in five has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
We know from the statistics the preventable deaths, the horrific injuries, psychological trauma and the broken hearts that domestic violence, which is also known as intimate partner violence, can and does occur in many Australian relationships.
As shocking as it is to hear, it could be taking place next door.
What are men doing to stop it?
Governments, charities and the community at large are rightfully concerned and fully engaged in the prevention and treatment of this epidemic.
Actions include using the law, removing people from danger and giving practical support in the many decisions about safety, starting a new life and self-care that will arise.
Thankfully, too, the clarion mantra, “it is never okay for someone to hurt or threaten to hurt you” sounds around the nation. In fact, it must reverberate in the hearts of all from the cradle to school ground to the workplace constantly.
Then the question must be asked what new psycho-social educative measures are being implemented and are they underpinned by mentorship, education and living sound values and respectful choices – not just when it’s easy but when life gets hard?
That is why the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments worked with the community to develop a 12-year National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-22.
It almost goes without saying that these initiatives must be sustainably funded and resourced with all the education, prevention, treatment, compassionate care, legal and action-research might that we can collectively deploy.
That is, if this rampant 21st-century catastrophe that breaks body, minds and spirits is to be addressed.
Although media campaigns call for men to stop and own up, do they go to the root causes early enough?
The perpetrators must take responsibility yet it is less clear that men are being engaged where and when they need help most and before such horrific violence starts.
Recent evidence points to the need to match programs to perpetrator characteristics (risk, motivation, need).
Yet how well we do we engage with the early warning signs, such as finances, self-esteem, mental health, job losses or addictions, just to name a few?
Our society advances equity, dignity and respect and rightfully so, yet do we also hold men accountable upfront and as mentors of other men, as good models who hold positive views of women?
Do we, our services and our community truthfully look for the early emotional, mental, financial and relational warning signs and say that it is “okay to get help”?
RUOK Day is a crucial part of workplace mental health and it saves lives.
Yet I wonder if “RU struggling at home?” is given its rightful focus.
And I am not talking about excusing perpetrators nor about the ways impulse control disorders, co-dependency or addiction may at times be used to excuse inappropriate and unlawful behaviour.
RU struggling? demands an early, action-oriented awareness and mindfulness.
This is not easy and yet if the work, club or family would allow it, enable it, it could become a standard, very early-stage “looking after one another” and “challenging each other” ethos right across this nation.
Thankfully there are places where men are actively encouraged to put up their hands for help early but there is not enough of this yet.
These interventions too must be ramped up if men are to address this horrific epidemic.
By Deacon Peter Devenish Meares