The prevention of domestic violence is a core priority for Catholic Social Services Victoria (CSSV) and the recent 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which concluded on Saturday 10 December, provided some important opportunities for us to join significant events that highlighted the issues, remembered those who have been affected and called for an end to violence against women and children.
CSSV was pleased to join the 2022 Walk Against Family Violence (WAFV2022) on Friday 25 November with staff from member organisation Good Samaritan Inn. A strong turnout for the event, with numbers in the thousands, saw a sea of orange caps across the steps of Parliament House and along the route of the walk which concluded at the Carlton Gardens, in Melbourne’s inner north.
The event was emceed by Shayna Blaze and speakers at the event included survivor-advocate Sandy Pearce; Community Engagement Manager for The Carlton Respects program, Adrian Asdagi; actor, presenter and staunch activist against family violence, Farah Mak; Switchboard CEO, Joe Ball; Safe Steps CEO, Dr Chelsea Tobin; and CEO of Respect Victoria, Emily Maguire. Their collective message was for recognition of the widespread impacts of domestic violence and a call to action for change.
For the seventh year, CSSV played a role in Holding the Light, an ecumenical service of lament held at St Peter’s Eastern Hill (in East Melbourne) on Sunday 27 November. This reflective service provided an opportunity to mourn the women who have been killed at the hands of a partner or ex-partner in Australia in 2022. The church bells tolled 40 times, and each of the women were named in a sombre and moving tribute.
Liam*, a 15 year old and his mother, Michelle* courageously shared something of their experiences of a violent father/partner and reminded those attending that those who perpetrate violence may have been victims themselves in childhood, with the effects of violence sometimes carrying through multiple generations.
Matt Tyler, Executive Director of The Men’s Project at Jesuit Social Services highlighted the importance of naming the reality that 95% of people who experience violence report a male perpetrator, and the imperative of changing the attitudes and behaviour of men, and society more broadly. Matt discussed the findings of the ‘Man Box’ research, explaining that the Man Box is a set of norms that place pressure on men to be a certain way – to be tough, not to show emotion, to be the breadwinner, be in control, to have many sexual partners and to use violence to get respect. This research found strong associations between these ideas and a range of harmful behaviours. Challenging these norms and providing alternatives healthier identities are therefore important in addressing domestic violence.
The service’s concluding blessing included these words:
Let us go from here, as people who can change the world;
And as people who can bring love and healing.
Above all, let us go as bearers of the light
For those in dark places.
Our hope is that the speeches, prayers and words spoken during this 16 Days of Activism will continue into actions and transformations in the year to come.
Having the conversation on family and domestic violence – CSSV’s pilot program ‘Shining A Light’ saw a series of workshops held in the Diocese of Sale during 2022, designed to assist parish and other leaders in responding to domestic violence.