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Tucker Christou: Mate, here is how you help

Jun 17, 2024

It has happened again. Another man has unleashed unspeakable violence on woman.

As we come to terms with the horrific murders of Jennifer and Gretl Petelczyc in Floreat, and Evette Verney in Byford, our thoughts turn to Paulette Mountford, who remains in intensive care after being stabbed by her partner.

Many men reading these reports will feel disgusted, horrified, angry and will have a genuine inability to understand just how this has happened.

You are not alone.

But you are also not visible.

With the exception of some senior police officers and the Premier, the public face of family and domestic violence is undoubtedly female. From the women who experience it, to the women marching in the street to draw attention to it, to the female Minister responsible for preventing it – it is all women, nearly all the time.

Everyday blokes just aren’t there.

Why on earth is that?

It’s not that we don’t care or that we aren’t affected. We do. We are. Just ask any son, brother, father, uncle, nephew or any man who is close to a victim-survivor.

Even if you have no direct experience with FDV, I bet you still read the news and quietly pray that it is never your daughter, niece, sister, friend or mother.

Some of us might find comfort in pointing to the failures of the police. Without excusing any of these failures, I think this is a little unfair.

So far this year, WA police have dealt with more than 60,000 FDV call outs. There are around 7,000 sworn-in police officers in WA, covering the world’s largest single police jurisdiction.

Whatever you think of the police and their systems and system failures, dealing with this level of FDV – as well as every other crime – is a mammoth ask.

We know men are overwhelmingly responsible for most FDV. We need to be part of the solution.

Here’s four easy ways, and one really hard way, that everyday blokes can make a difference

Understand your male privilege

Nobody likes being told they are privileged. It gets everybody’s back up. But I’m asking you to look past what you think that word means and learn about what it means in the specific context of gender and gender violence.

Start with a 17 minute video from US anti-sexism educator Jackson Katz – Why we can no longer see sexual violence as a women’s issue.

Stop laughing

This is one the most straightforward ways to show you are not on board with sexist or derogatory jokes about women. It’s also not that hard, because these jokes were never funny in the first place.

Go to a rally

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the rallies and marches are ‘women’s events’. They are community events. Women at these events will welcome you wholeheartedly.

Learn the signs

Some of us have been taught by the media to look for dark glasses hiding a black eye or bruising on a wrist. These are dangerous myths.

Emotional, verbal, financial, psychological, and sexual abuse don’t leave bruises – only a sickening and never-ending experience of fear, desperation and trauma.

If we spend time looking for bruises that may take years to come – or don’t come at all – then we miss our chance to identify abuse and help.

Isolation, humiliation and control are often red flags for FDV. Learn what they look like and what to do about it.

And now the hard one.

Have an awkward conversation with your mate.

Some of you will already know the mate I am talking about. The one that responds to rejection by insulting a woman. The one who says he is going to convince his partner to engage in a sexual act he saw in a porn video. The one your female friend described as ‘handsy’.

He might be unsafe for women – and he’s being unsafe on your watch.

I implore you, look again at his behaviour, and find the courage to have what could be a difficult conversation for both of you.

Find a way to talk to him, away from others if you can, and let him know your concerns. Don’t shame him and don’t give ultimatums, but talk about his behaviour and attitude.

Whatever awkward and unpleasant feelings you might have I guarantee you these will pale into insignificance compared to the ones you will feel if you later discover your mate has hurt a woman, and you said nothing.

As Martin Luther King said: “In the end, what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

It’s time, mate, it’s not a women issue. We need to show up. We need to speak up. Silence is not an option.

Tucker Christou is Manager, Service Operations at Hope Community Services. This opinion piece appeared in The West Australian on Monday 17 June, 2024.

HOPE operates two family and domestic violence hubs: Mara Pirni Healing Place in Kalgoorlie and the South East FDV Healing Service in Armadale, Perth.

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