Crusaders in the fight against domestic violence shared some uncomfortable truths in a recent online Change event, hosted by Social Marketing @ Griffith.

“The story that our nation tells itself is that the powerful use violence to advance their self-interest,” Executive Director of White Ribbon Australia, Brad Chilcott, said to the more than 250 people who registered their attendance at the virtual event.

“The powerful use violence and coercion to achieve their goals and demonstrate their power, and then this becomes mirrored in what men do.

“This is what’s been taught and modeled as strong, determined leadership, that we use to protect society from chaos and disorder.

“We admit we don’t have all the answers. We’re not the saviours. We’re simply people who are ready to use whatever power and privilege we possess, to bring about change.”

Chilcott joined a number of Griffith University change makers at the Change 2021 event: Pathways to prevent domestic violence.

Professor Patrick O’Leary

Speakers included Professor Patrick O’Leary, the Director of Violence Research and Prevention, Griffith Criminology Institute, Anoushka Dowling, Assistant Director of Griffith’s MATE Bystander Program, Research Fellows from Social Marketing @ Griffith (SMG) Dr Taylor Willmott and Dr Erin Hurley along with SMG co-hosts Dr Timo Dietrich and Dr Julia Carins.

Off the back of statistics showing that each week one Australian woman is murdered by her current or former partner and two million Australian adults have experienced at least one incidence of sexual assault from the age of 15 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2017), Professor O’Leary offered learned insights into the subject of toxic masculinity.

“As bystanders, and particularly as men, it’s really important to think about this in the context that toxic masculinity is something that men have created over generations,” Professor O’Leary said.

“It’s not something that boys today have inherited. And often boys are left with the residue of it and unfairly blamed so it’s really up to adults to take control of this and change the story.

Patrick has worked in the area of gender based violence, child protection and the impact of childhood trauma for over 25 years and says change must start with men.

“Men are the most important people to change their own identity,” he said.

“I think one of the challenges for all bystanders and particularly men, in standing with masculine privilege, is to go first in speaking out, embrace the concept of going first.”

Dr Taylor Willmott and Dr Erin Hurley used the platform to share key findings from recent work in regional communities of Bundaberg and Toowoomba, which featured a co-design model.

“We asked participants to design what they wanted to see implemented in their community to keep young people safe (from sexual violence and assault),” Dr Hurley said.

“The development of community partnerships was really fundamental to the success of this project (and) through these established partnerships, we were really able to reach and engage at risk cohorts that we wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.

“One of the key insights was a lack of awareness of existing resources available to them, so while online safety and tips for having conversations with their child was valued, (parents) actually hadn’t heard of many of the valuable resources that are currently out there offering this type of support.”

The feedback saw researchers identify opportunities for “improved coordination between community organizations and the Department of Education, as well to ensure that facilitators trained in the delivery of prevention initiatives actually have the support and networks that they need to deliver these within schools”.

Social Marketing @ Griffith’s Engagement Director, Dr Timo Dietrich, said the event showed there was hope for ending violence and it involves community-led change.

“Violence occurs on a continuum and starts with, for example, sexist jokes and rigid gender stereotypes,” he said.

“We have to hold people accountable.

“In order to create cultural change we need to start with our youngest generations and move away from just talking about the pointy end of the continuum (where violence occurs) and find ways to bring employers, sporting clubs, politicians, everyone with us to drive this cultural shift. The community must set the bar higher for men to make a difference long-term.”

A recording of the entire online event can be accessed on youtube.

17: Partnerships for the Goals
UN Sustainable Development Goals 17: Partnerships for the Goals

5: Gender Equality
UN Sustainable Development Goals 5: Gender Equality