Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations across the world. It’s the most extreme form of discrimination against women and results from society’s ingrained sexism and adherence to gender roles and expectations.
In Australia, one in three women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15. And so far this year 43 women have been killed at the hands of violence, predominantly by men known to them. In 2016 the total was 70 – that’s more than one woman a week. These cases are at the extreme end of this systemic problem, but sadly, are a reflection of the current state of gender inequality that still exists in our country.
It’s important to also acknowledge that minority groups like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and women with disability experience violence at even higher rates. Not to mention it’s the leading cause of homelessness for women.
This Saturday 25 November is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, followed by 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence ending on 10 December - Human Rights Day.
This day couldn’t be more important and topical than right now, with many high-profile, respected men having their history of sexual harassment, assault and rape thrown into the spotlight. The abuse of power by these men, combined with the expectation that the women they abuse will stay silent, is symptomatic of a bigger problem that is not only isolated to just men with money and power.
Times are slowly changing and we’re seeing more and more women finding the strength to come forward and share their stories of abuse, but it shouldn’t be up to the victims of violence to have to relive their experience in order for the world to take notice. This is why the YMCA is working to help create a more equal society where violence is a thing of the past.
We all play a role in minimising violence against women and the YMCA runs specific programs to address the problem.
YMCA Bass Coast have been a partner in ‘The South Coast Partnership in the Prevention of Men’s Violence against Women’ for around three years. During this time we have played an integral part in raising awareness of the seriousness of violence against women in this community.
YMCA staff Fiona Passarin and Michael Feehan (Community Development Officers) run workshops to equip the community with the right knowledge and awareness of the factors that contribute to violence against women, in a bid to help reduce it in the South Gippsland community.
“Recently we facilitated a workshop to the staff at Phillip Island Nature Parks, the managers at Murray Goulburn Leongatha (who have only a 7% female workforce) and the year nine students at Newhaven Secondary College,” said Fiona.
Discussing harmful stereotypes, sexist language and how to be an active bystander, the workshops provide an important step in teaching adults and children about healthy relationships, signs somebody is in an abusive relationship and what we can so as an individual or community to help.
We also provide all-female group fitness classes at various Y-managed centres both for cultural reasons and to ensure women who are or have experienced violence feel safe to come and get active in a supportive environment.
YMCA Victoria denounces any form of violence and acknowledges that it can come in many forms, and that we need to always demand better from society.
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence please call 1800 RESPECT.
In an emergency call 000.