The unacceptably high rate of violence against women is essentially a men’s problem and men need to take the lead in solving it according to psychologists.
“Most of the violence against women is done by men and too often other men witness it or know about it but let it happen,” says Dr Bob Montgomery, Director of Communications for the Australian Psychological Society.
White Ribbon Day, the U.N.-sponsored International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women will be held on Friday 25 November and is an opportunity for us all, but most of all, men, to focus on a problem that affects many women in Australia and throughout the world.
“Most people would be staggered to know the real rates of violence against women in our community, because it is most often not reported. On average, a woman experiences violence 35 times before she formally seeks assistance, although she may tell a friend or neighbour. So our data is patchy but none the less paints a frightening picture.”
Australian researchers found 23% of women reported experiencing violence from a previous partner. Very alarming is the finding that 42% of women reported experiencing violence during pregnancy, half of those for the first time. Fifty-seven percent reported experiencing at least one physical or sexual assault during their lifetime. It is true that some women are violent towards men and that is unacceptable, too, but mostly women are violent in self-defence while men are much more likely to initiate violence.
“Only a minority of violent men have serious psychological problems,” says Dr Montgomery. “Most have problems being assertive rather than aggressive or may have some negative attitudes towards women as a result of buying into rigid old ideas about masculinity. But none of this excuses the violence. It is up to men who commit violence to accept responsibility for their behaviour and for changing it.”
“Australian men have a traditional dislike for dobbing someone in or sticking their noses into other people’s private lives. But there is a line of seriousness where that tradition should stop.No decent man would let his wife or mother or sister be the victim of violence. We should not be willing to turn a blind eye to violence against any woman.”
Male psychologists are being encouraged to take part in White Ribbon Day and in turn to encourage other men to take a public stand against violence. “It’s pretty much our problem,” says Dr Montgomery, “so it’s up to us to do something about it.”
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