After #MeToo: Preventing family, domestic and sexual violence| Hobart Alumni Event 2019

After #MeToo: Preventing family, domestic and sexual violence| Hobart Alumni Event 2019


– [Presenter] So, I’d just like to start
off by putting the extent of the problem of violence against women into
perspective. So, as Lauren mentioned,
violence against women is a global crime problem, and the need to enhance
prevention and responses has gained traction on international policy agendas. At a social level, movements such as
Me Too, Time’s Up, and I Believe Her have developed public discourse around the
gravity, nature, and impacts of gender violence, and the need to
promote further recognition of the harms. Legislative changes have also prompted
acknowledgement of the problem in Australia as one that is in need of an
urgent law and order response. Violence against women is overwhelmingly a
gender problem implied in the title itself. Statistics, incidents,
and deaths show that family, domestic and sexual violence is primarily
committed by men against women. This means that women and children are at
a greater risk of experiencing family, domestic and sexual violence in comparison
to their male counterparts. In Australia, at least one woman is killed
each week by a current or former partner. Domestic and family violence,
as we noted earlier, is the leading preventable cause of death,
disability, and illness in women aged between 15 and 44 years in Australia. Research by the Australian Institute of
Health and Welfare shows that on average, 1 in 5 women, or 1.7 million women,
and 1 in 10 men, 428,000 men, have been sexually assaulted since the age
of 15. 1 in 6 women, or 1.5 million women,
and 1 in 9 men, 992,000, are physically or sexually abused before
the age of 15. Women are also more likely to experience
sexual violence from a former or current partner, or from
somebody on a date. And reporting rates of sexual violence are
one in six, with even less going to trial and even less resulting in conviction. One in four women and one in six men have
experienced emotional abuse from a current or previous partner since the age of 15. Some groups are also at a significantly
higher risk of family, domestic and sexual violence,
including indigenous Australian women, people from culturally and linguistically
diverse backgrounds, people with a disability,
and women who are pregnant, separating from their partners,
or experiencing financial difficulties. LGBTIQ communities are also especially
vulnerable to sexual victimization and its impacts, but research in this context
still remains fairly limited. So, sexual and family domestic violence is
clearly a gender problem, but we might ask ourselves
why this is the case. So the two clips I’m about to play are
important because they illustrate how social understandings of men, women, boys,
and girls can have real tangible consequences for the ways in which
behaviors become normalized, accepted, and tolerated. And so, when I play these clips,
I’d like us to tune in to what we hear, and reflect on how they’ve taken for
granted understandings of men, women, boys, and girls impact on our
understandings of these people within the community,
and how this contributes to the extent of the problem. So you might have seen some of it or one
of these before, but if you haven’t, you will find it particularly interesting.
– [Female] [inaudible] – [Female] Hi. – Okay, so I’m going to just give you some
actions to do, and I want you to just do the first thing that comes to mind. Show me what it looks like to run like a
girl. Show me what it looks
like to fight like a girl. Now throw like a girl. – [Dakota] My name is Dakota,
and I’m 10 years old. – Show me what it looks like
to run like a girl. Throw like a girl. Fight like a girl. What does it mean to you when I say run
like a girl? – It means run as fast as you can. – So, do you think you just
insulted your sister? – No. Yeah, I’ve insulted girls
but not my sister. – Is like a girl a good thing? – Actually I don’t know what it means,
if it’s a bad thing or a good thing. It sounds like a bad thing. Feels like you’re trying
to humiliate someone. – So when they’re in that vulnerable time
between 10 and 12, how do you think it affects them when somebody uses like a
girl as an insult? – I think it definitely drops some
self-confidence and really puts them down because during that time,
they’re already trying to figure themselves out. And when somebody says,
“You hit like a girl.” It’s like, “Well, what does that mean?” Because they think they’re a strong
person, it’s kind of like telling them that they’re weak and they’re not as good
as them. – And what advice do you have to young
girls who are told they run like a girl, fight like a girl, hit like a girl,
swim like a girl? – Keep doing it because it’s working. – When somebody else says like running
like a girl, or kicking like a girl, or shooting like a girl is something that
you shouldn’t be doing, that’s their problem. Because if you’re still scoring,
and you’re still getting quality time, and you’re being still first,
you’re doing it right, it doesn’t matter what they say. I mean, yes, I kick like a girl,
and I swim like a girl, and I walk like a girl,
and I wake up in the morning like a girl, because I am a girl. And that’s not something that I should be
ashamed of, so I’m going to do it anyway. That’s what they should do. – If I asked you to run like a girl now,
would you do it differently? – I would run like myself. – [inaudible] – All right. So just one more here. – [Male] I’m number two of four boys. My mom raised us by herself from the age
of 11. I went to an all-boys school. So the only women I knew were my mom,
my accounting teacher, and my music teacher. And so, I found myself like as a kind of
teenager, young boy, you know, in the schoolyard, someone would make a
joke or something that at first you go, “Haha, haha,” because it was kind of the
[inaudible] but I laughed because I wanted those
people to accept me, right? And then soon enough, I started saying
those things [inaudible] you know, accept me. And soon enough, those things started to
come to the way that I saw the world. And then those things osmosed into my
behavior and what that did, ultimately, and then I kind of got spat out into like
a [inaudible] work in media, you know that it’s a very female-dominant
workforce. I [inaudible] these females I worked
with in media and I had a very rough entry into that because of how I had
kind of osmosed these things about what women were and were capable of. And I was very lucky to have some people
that you probably don’t know but certaily [inaudible] do and just kind
of went, “You shouldn’t [inaudible]”
very kind in how to shape me towards whatever way I’m learning. But was it was just so kind of insidious.
[inaudible] just happened, you know, that these things that weren’t initially
[inaudible] suddenly I started doing the same for want of [inaudible]
seems to always be to wanting the approval of another male and [inaudible]
as a way of wanting that approval and that’s certainly been
my experience of it. – [inaudible] – Okay. So feel free to go back,
I can provide the link to you, and watch that in full. It is quite interesting. We’ve got it up. Great. So, in highlighting these factors and
gender disparities, feminist activists seek to condemn the use of traditional
gendered stereotypes as a basis to afford differential treatment between
men and women. If we consider the socially constructed
gendered roles in society, women are considered to be the nurturers
and carers. They are told to be soft, obedient,
and they have lesser access, generally, to financial support and employment
security in comparison to their strong, assertive, bread-winning,
and dominant male counterparts. Whether we realize it or not,
structures of violence are embedded in gendered norms and stereotypes in
Australia, and indeed internationally. The resilience of culturally-dominant
beliefs about men and women pervade social, legal and policy
discourse. In particular, we associate masculinity
with power, and femininity with passivity and fear. And this manifestation of power,
privilege, and control is often used by men to maintain dominance over women,
which produces these gender disparities and strips women of their autonomy,
safety, and control. Understanding violence against women
within the context of patriarchal systems and structures that enable men to assert
power and control over women, will help us to address this underlying
issue and prevent violence before it starts. So there is a strong need to challenge
ideas of gender to change patterns of violence in the long-term. In fact, this was also noted by Victoria’s
recent Royal Commission Into Family Violence,
in which their final report stated, “At its core, family violence is a deeply
gendered issue, rooted in the structural inequalities and imbalance of power
between men and women. While both men and women can be
perpetrators or victims of family violence, overwhelmingly the
majority of victims are women and children, and the majority of
perpetrators are men. The most common and pervasive instances of
family violence occur in intimate, current or former, partner relationships
perpetrated by men against women. At its core, family violence is rooted in
the inequality between men and women. And this environment fosters
discriminatory attitudes and behaviors that condone violence
and allow it to occur. For this reason, addressing gender
inequality and discrimination is at the heart of preventing family violence and
other forms of violence against women such as nonintimate partner sexual assault.” And so, on this backdrop,
we might ask where do these socially constructed norms come from? What has fueled and even justified men’s
violence against women? So, historical understandings of domestic
and family violence was shaped by the concept that women were the property of
men, first their fathers and then their husbands. In this setting, the concept of marriage
inevitably granted men the rights to claim title of women and their bodies,
which in turn legitimized and permitted men to violently control their wives. It was similarly presumed that married
women were consenting to the external sexual devices of their husbands,
and were able to be sexually objectified and abused. So in this context, any abuse inflicted
upon a woman’s body was considered, by law, to be an abuse
to the man’s property. And if the woman was not married,
the abuse was considered to be to her father’s property. So this belief allowed men to violently
abuse and rape their wives with immunity from legal punishment. Such historical beliefs and constructs
also created a perception that women served as the natural prey of men. And if we consider these historical quotes
from William Blackstone, for example, one of them states, “By marriage,
the husband and wife are one person in law. That is, the very being or legal existence
of the woman is suspended during the marriage,
or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband,
under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs everything. Husband and wife are one person in law.” If we think about how the law has
responded to family violence in Australia, we can think about four key periods. The first is the 17th century through to
the late 1950s. And this period saw the home as a man’s
castle, and women and children were seen as his property. So family violence was not considered or
even labelled as a crime, and husbands had a duty to discipline
their wives in this period. So in this period of time,
family violence was condoned. The second phase, from the late 1950s
through to the late 1980s, this period saw assault being formally
recognized as a crime, regardless of the relationship between the parties. But family violence was still considered
to be a private matter, and not one for police involvement or
intervention, which meant that family violence was
recognized as a real crime. So in theory it was a crime,
but in practice it actually lacked legal clout. We then saw a shift from the 1980s,
with family violence being recognized as a crime. And this era espoused principles of
fairness, equality, and respect for individual rights,
but continued to be fraught with substantive gender inequality. So women were also deemed responsible for
their own safety. And although family violence was
recognized as a crime, it still really wasn’t treated as a
serious crime as such. So the fourth phase,
which brings us to the current period, sees gender violence at the forefront of
legal, political, and social discourse. Nowadays, violence against women is
considered to be a threat to national security. And there is increasing recognition of the
diverse forms of violence and victims’ needs. There is also a significant emphasis
placed on perpetrator accountability. But even in light of all of these
developments that we will be touching upon shortly, we can still see remnants of
the past creeping into the present, particularly revolving around victim
blaming, and this notion of a woman being the husband’s property. So, even in light of these evolving
understandings and responses, key myths continue to exist in relation to
domestic and family violence and even sexual violence. And we often hear people ask,
“If she’s being abused, why doesn’t she just leave?” But we need to consider the broader
assumptions built into this question. So this question and judgement embodies a
number of key issues. Firstly, it overlooks the reasons as to
why victims might find it difficult to leave their home, their partner,
and sometimes their family and community. So this includes, for example,
victim feelings of shame, and fearing their childrens’, pets’,
and even own safety. In fact, for many victims who are often
women, there is this paradoxical sense of feeling safer within the relationship
as opposed to trying to leave. And this is because the risk of lethal
violence so, for example, homicide, increases when victims leave, or attempt,
or are attempting to leave violent relationships. Additionally, if a victim has a disability
or special facilities in their home, the option of leaving their abusive
partner is far more complex. There might also be a range of financial
reasons as to why victims cannot leave. Asking why don’t victims just leave also
places the blame and responsibility for leaving squarely on the victim,
which reinforces the perpetrator’s entitlement to the home, so, again, revisiting this idea of a man’s
entitlement to property both physically and materially. So instead of asking,
“Why doesn’t she just leave or try to stop the abuse?” The question we need to be seeking answers
to, as noted by Professor Jude McCulloch of Monash University, is,
“Why doesn’t she have anywhere to go?” Other gender violence myths revolve around
the idea that women ask for it, or deserve it, and that perpetrators are
provoked into inflicting violence or harm. So, for example, it is not uncommon for
people to question what a victim was doing wearing or even drinking at the time that
an offence is committed. Similarly, it is not uncommon for people
to place the onus on women to ensure responsibility for their safety by
cautioning them not to go out late at night or leave drinks unattended. So, there is this self-policing element
that we often instill upon women. At the same time, it is common for
perpetrators to make victims feel like they are at fault for something they
might have said or done, which provoked or justified a violent
outburst. Placing blame on victims removes
perpetrator accountability. Other myths include that a parent hitting
their child is a way of showing love or discipline, and that family violence
only occurs in heterosexual relationships, which is not true. Another myth is that family violence does
not affect higher income families and is more likely to impact marginalized groups. This claim is indeed empirically false and
is not always the case. And that women are just as violent as men. So research consistently shows that men
are more likely than women to perpetrate violent abuse, and that women’s violence
against men does not equate to men’s in terms of its frequency, severity,
consequences, and the victim’s sense of safety and well-being. So, at a social level,
we have seen movements such as Me Too, Time’s Up, and a range of other movements
emerge over the last decade or perhaps even just prior to that. And while their inception was motivated by
different groups, the movements collectively sought to prevent the
perpetration of violence against women. So the Me Too movement, for example,
emerged in 2006 to help survivors of sexual violence, particularly women of
color, and victims from culturally and linguistically diverse communities find
pathways to healing. What started as local grassroots work
eventually gained international traction, and women were brought together,
through digital environments, to combat these significant harms. In 2017, the Time’s Up movement shed light
on sexual assault, harassment, and gender inequality in the workplace. Noting that society is premised on
male-centric institutions, this movement challenged the structures of
workplace environments that facilitated violence against women. And more recently, in March 2018,
Northern Ireland was divided by the acquittal of four men for rape,
attempted rape, and perverting the course of justice in what became known as the
Belfast rugby trial. So the case and its disclosures,
particularly those related to text messages sent by the defendants who play
for the Ireland and Ulster rugby teams, raised serious concerns about misogyny in
men’s elite sport. The outcome of the nine week trial
convulsed Northern Ireland, and provoked a series of protests under
the #IBelieveHer. And it also reaffirmed victims or
complainants’ in this context, if you like, ill-treatment
in criminal trials. So it did prompt the need to review legal
and nonlegal responses to sexual violence. And so, the John Gillen review emerged as
a result, and the final report…well, the outcome of that review and its
recommendations were delivered earlier this year. So, social movements are important because
they often become the catalyst for legal reforms. With decades of lobbying and advocacy
work, feminists and victims’ rights groups have challenged the social, legal,
and political context governing responses to victims, particularly victims
of gendered violence. And these movements also gave rise to
legal policies that shifted understandings of domestic and family violence beyond a
private matter to one that warrants state involvement and intervention. They also prompted the establishment of
national and state frameworks to guide operational responses to domestic and
family violence, so that perpetrators are no longer immune from legal punishment. In Australia, victim recognition and
related reform preceded the United Nations’ Declaration of Basic Principles
of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power in 1985. Victim-focused reforms were introduced in
conjunction with administrative changes to procedures and services,
which included, for example, the establishment of support services that
assist victims to negotiate the legal process, and training police in how
to better respond to violence against women. The development of charters or
declarations of victims’ rights across Australia state and territory
jurisdictions also represented a symbolic recognition of the harm or loss
experienced by victims, and outlined key principles governing
responses to victims by justice authorities,
including access to information about support, protection,
and the legal process. And this was, in fact,
a key development for many state and territory jurisdictions,
because, by definition, victims are considered witnesses
to proceedings which precludes their
active involvement and participation in justice processes. So any information and support victims can
receive throughout the criminal justice system, significantly aids both
their understanding and ability to feel like integral players rather than mere
bystanders in that legal process. So, Australia also witnessed a widespread
emphasis on expanding the definition of rape and sexual intercourse,
shifting the focus away from the victim’s character to the offender’s behavior,
and reinforcing this notion that resistance and injury are not required to
prove nonconsent. So, in addition to changes to the legal
definition of rape, further reforms focused on allowing victims to give
evidence via video technology, or while accompanied by a
support person in court. And other post-assault measures in
Australia included the establishment of domestic violence liaison offices,
and more recently, specialist family violence courts have been introduced in
some Australian jurisdictions, although research on these courts still
remains fairly limited, given their relatively recent emergence. So, according to Associate Professor Asher
Flynn, “Such changes have motivated positive social responses and legal
reforms, such as rape crisis centers, and the recognition of previously
unacknowledged offences as real crimes,” so, for example, domestic and family
violence and rape in marriage. These changes have also been instrumental
in addressing issues relating to low reporting rates, the insensitive treatment
that victims often receive by police, police perceptions of high rates of false
reporting, the trauma of the courtroom experience,
as well as low prosecution and conviction rates, and myths around “real
rape victimization experiences” and dissatisfaction with justice processes
more generally. But despite legal reform in Australia,
and indeed internationally, the cumulative effect of victim-focused
reforms have not significantly altered the landscape of police and criminal justice
responses to victims, nor have they really improved victims’ experiences
in the legal process. So, for example, in 2012,
a study in New South Wales by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research Agency
interviewed 300 women who had been victims of family violence at some
point in their lives. Only half of those interviewed had
reported the most recent incident of family violence to police. And the most common reasons for not
reporting to the police were fear of revenge or further violence from the
perpetrator, feelings of shame or embarrassment, or a belief that the
incident was too trivial or unimportant to bring to police attention. Additionally, 1 in 10 victims stated that
they had not reported the most recent incident because they had previously had a
bad or disappointing experience with police. And 8% of victims hadn’t reported the
matter because they thought the police would be unwilling to do anything about
the violence. So, these findings have also been
documented in decades of academic research that has analyzed victims’ experiences of
procedural injustice in legal systems. So another very recent legal development
that warrants mention here is Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence. In 2015, Victoria established the first
Royal Commission into Family Violence in Australia in order to address the
gravity, nature, and impacts of family violence-related offending. And it made whole of system
recommendations to improve prevention and responses. So, the Royal Commission into Family
Violence final report set out a roadmap for transformative reform,
containing 227 recommendations, the majority of which were to be
implemented within 5 years of the report’s release. I think we’re about…I say we’re
because I’m from Victoria, about halfway to sort of implementing
those recommendations. The recommendations aimed to prevent
family violence and improve early intervention, better support
victims, and make perpetrators more accountable. It also aimed to better coordinate
community and government responses through, for example,
information sharing schemes. And the Victorian State Government
committed to implementing all 227 recommendations,
which really marked a unique and significant moment within
Victorian history. So, building on these recommendations and
in line with the Victorian Government’s 10-year plan to address violence against
women, last month on the 9th of August, the Council of Australian Governments
endorsed the fourth action plan of the national plan to reduce violence against
women and their children, and agreed on national priorities to
reduce family, domestic and sexual violence. The point I’m trying to make here though
is, while these are all very, very significant developments,
they alone will not be the solution to the problem of the most pervasive forms of
violence experienced by women and children in Australia. And as highlighted, by
Walklate, Fitz-Gibbon and McCulloch, “More law is not the only answer to
responding to violence against women.” And there is a strong need to address
gender and social disparities that we touched upon earlier,
so we can prevent violence before it starts, and address the
underlying root causes of this nature of offending. So thank you very much, everyone,
for listening. And I’ll open it to the floor for
questions.