16 Days in WA is now a well-known campaign, raising awareness around family and domestic violence.
However, to truly combat the epidemic of FDV in our communities, we need to act every day, not just for two weeks. Here are 16 ways to play your part in changing behaviours and attitudes in your community, long after the campaign has ended.
1. Recognise and respond to harmful actions and words.
Violence against women stems from an inherent disrespect of women. Sexist jokes, slurs, objectification and sexual comments all reinforce that attitude of disrespect, so it’s important to call it out when you hear it. A thumbs down on a social media post, an eye roll, walking away or even just refusing to laugh can be powerful.
2. Give support, don’t take control.
If someone chooses to disclose they are experiencing FDV, avoid planning their exit for them. Leaving is not always straightforward – the person may not want to, or it may not be safe to.
Listen to them, believe them and make sure they know you don’t condone the abusive behaviour. Ask them what kind of support they want, and respect that choice. Offer to support them as they explore their options, but don’t push them into a decision they aren’t able to make.
3. Talk with your kids about respect.
FDV is rooted in gender inequality and disrespect for women, so check in with your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and friends about their views on gender. Use opportunistic moments to have a chat and reinforce the message.
Use a TV program they are watching, a book they are reading, or a video game they are playing to challenge sexist beliefs and power dynamics.
The Australian Government has a conversation guide and checklist.
4. Start a conversation.
Look for ways to discuss FDV outside the 16 Days in WA campaign. Bring up news reports, social media posts or a television show that refers to FDV – and be clear in your opposition to it, in all its forms.
5. Family violence has many faces.
Physical violence is not typically the first type of abuse in a relationship, often it is preceded by and coexists with emotional, financial, coercive, social, or sexual abuse. Learn about the different types of abuse and what they look like at YouTube channel @OurWatchAus.
6. Watch victim-survivor stories.
There are many excellent shows that sensitively tell victim-survivor stories. See What You Made Me Do by Australian journalist Jess Hill is an excellent example. Netflix’s Maid has won much acclaim for its accurate portrayal of abuse, while The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart illustrates the intergenerational trauma that comes from family and domestic violence.
A quick internet search will yield charities that provide services and support to women experiencing FDV. Donate directly or buy a ticket to an event.
There are regular and semi-regular positions at several charities, get online and see if one is right for you.
9. Wear your support.
Show your support everyday by attaching a 16 Days badge or pin to your work lanyard or your handbag. If orange isn’t your colour, try a white ribbon.
10. Be a good sport.
Sporting clubs and associations have the power to set a positive example by adopting a zero-tolerance attitude to sexism and unacceptable behaviour on the pitch and in the club rooms. Check out your club’s policy or code of conduct and see whether it could be improved.
11. Kit out the school library.
Our schools are making big strides in teaching our children about consent, respect, setting boundaries and healthy relationships. Make sure they have resources to match what they teach. From books such as Don’t Hug Doug to Eliza Vandas Button Box, there are books that teach consent and respect to every age group. Ask your school librarian what they would like and ask the school P&C to allocate funds to buy some books.
12. Make employees aware of FDV Leave.
All employees are now entitled to 10 days of FDV leave annually. Make sure employees know how to access it and what requirements are needed. Host an information session or write an internal email that provides the information. Include this in induction packs for new employees.
13. Show your support online.
Like and share official campaign posts or make a statement of support.
14. Support other campaigns.
16 Days in WA isn’t the only FDV campaign. There is Ochre Ribbon Day in February, Domestic Violence Remembrance Day in May, and White Ribbon Day in November. Also mark International Women’s Day in March, and International Women’s Equality Day in August.
15. Host an ‘orange’ event.
Bring colleagues or friends together for an ‘orange’ themed morning tea or lunch. It’s an easy theme – there are plenty of orange foods – and it creates an opportunity to discuss gender inequality, disrespect and how we can all play our part to end violence against women.
16. Create a permanent display.
Put up a permanent poster in your workplace or on a local community noticeboard on how and where people can access FDV support services. If your employer operates an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), make sure these details are included.
Hope Community Services is a partner in two FDV hubs in Western Australia – the Mara Pirni Healing Place in Kalgoorlie, and the South East FDV Healing Service in Armadale.