Growing up in the 1950s and the 1960s I witnessed my mother being brutally beaten and verbally abused and belittled regularly by my father. For over 30 years Mum put up with this abuse and her health deteriorated over that time, so much so that she died in 1983 at the very young age of 49. My father was responsible for her death, I don’t doubt it.
I will never get over the fact that during the many occasions Mum was being attacked by my father no one stepped in to help her. Neighbours saw and heard what was happening and did nothing to help her. I remember my brother, my sister or I running next door or across the road for help but there was none. People in the street would not stop and help when she was being abused or hit in public. Family friends would do nothing when they were around and saw the violence.
Worst of all, family members did nothing to help Mum when the violence was taking place or subsequent to it. Even at family gatherings, such as at Christmas time, family members would turn their backs and some would leave, but they would not help Mum. She was on her own with a herd of kids to look after.
I believe there are two main actions that good men can take. Firstly, set a good example for the boys and men around you, in your family, amongst your friends, at work and in your communities.
Your sporting clubs are an excellent place where you can provide a great role model to younger men and boys. Let them see that you live your life as a good man who respects women and who will not tolerate abuse and/or violence against women.
The education of boys and young men about how violence against women is wrong and totally unacceptable is an important step in the right direction and it will strike a chord with many of them.
An example of this occurred in my local rugby league club in the Newcastle/Hunter Region during the 2011 season. The Macquarie Scorpions Rugby League Club was involved in the “Let’s Tackle Domestic Violence” campaign run by the NSW Government and the NSW Country Rugby League.
This program required all those involved in the club to undergo education sessions around domestic violence and then to sign a code of conduct relating to the elimination of abuse and violence towards women and girls. Players, coaching staff, committee members and administration staff, all went through the program at the start of the season.
The program worked. During the season two of the club’s players, on separate occasions, were at social functions that were attended by their mates, girlfriends and others. Both young men, only in their late teens, were faced with situations in which they had to intervene to protect the women around them. One young lady was being abused by her boyfriend and one young lady had rejected the attentions of a fellow who was drunk.
The second action follows on from the setting of good examples and education programs, and that is what was demonstrated by these two young men. They stepped in to help, they saw that something wrong was happening and they picked a side.
Men from time to time have to pick a side when they see a woman being abused or mistreated. They have to be prepared to step in and help. This is not easy. It may require you to pull up a relative or friend who is doing the wrong thing, or it may require you to intervene in a situation involving complete strangers. It is vital in situations where violence is taking place not to become a victim yourself. It may be a case of calling police, calling for the help of others nearby or just letting the perpetrator know you are there and taking some sort of action.
Another great way to support women who are experiencing violence is to provide your support, recommend they seek professional assistance and assure them you are there for them.
I urge all good men to pick a side and make this Oath: I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. Visit the White Ribbon website to learn more about how men can work to eliminate violence against women. I’m bitter that not one good man picked my Mum’s side.
Today, Friday 25 November, thousands of men and women across the country will ‘Swear & Wear’ to mark White Ribbon Day, the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Kevin urges men to stand up for our mums, daughters, sisters and friends and pick the right side this White Ribbon Day. Get online and swear the oath at www.myoath.com.au or tweet the oath with #whiteribbon. White ribbons can be purchased for $2 each online at www.whiteribbon.org.au
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