Social reform takes time - but can happen

White Ribbon Australia (WRA) is part of a global organisation and movement to put an end to men's violence and abuse toward women.

Roger Yeo

Roger Yeo

WRA, as many will know went into receivership last October due to financial difficulties. Very quickly, as the organisation was going into receivership, Communicare, a company that has long operated in the health and well being sector, negotiated to assume the WRA brand, intellectual property and the Breaking the Silence Schools and Corporate Accreditation Programs.

A deal closed in January, before COVID, and we have been working hard to revitalise the organisation.

Having said that, sorry to say, statistics continue to tell us that the issue of 'men's violence against women' and domestic violence and abuse in general, continues to get worse. In this country 30 per cent of all women still experience some sort of physical, sexual or mental abuse from men and more than one woman each week still loses her life to someone she knows, trusts, and loves.

At the beginning of this year, along came the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in lost jobs, more anxiety and financial pressure, more time spent at home together, often with young children, increased consumption of alcohol and drugs.

Relationships, unfortunately, were never expected to be 24/7. These are all just excuses however, because ultimately the perpetration of violence or abuse of any kind, by anyone, is a choice. A choice made by the perpetrator.

The excuses, nevertheless, are heard repeatedly in family and criminal court.

Since the killing of Hannah Clarke and her three children earlier this year, the concept of 'Coercive Control' has gained significant public attention. The term is used to capture the ongoing nature of domestic violence, where the abuse is not always physical but pervades a victim's daily life. It refers to a wide variety of abusive behaviours including social, financial, psychological, and technology-facilitated abuse.

It is most often the process of one person saying, doing, acting, in ways that make another person question their lived reality. It has been described as a form of legalised torture.

Victims come to doubt their sense of self, as well as their own sanity.

It can be many behaviours but includes isolating a partner from their friends or family, restricting their movements, using tracking devices on their phone, or controlling their appearance, or access to money.

Coercive control is the most common factor leading up to intimate partner homicide. It is used all the time - primarily by men, but yes, by some women as well.

It is still a very gendered issue. 95 per cent of all victims of violence, whether women or men, experience that violence from a male perpetrator.

And when men use coercive control against women, and if those women don't recognise it, they can become helpless victims. They can't escape, no money, no where to go, no friends left, no understanding of what's really happening. They fear for themselves, their children and their pets.

The NSW government will soon debate legislation to make coercive control a criminal offence.

It will be difficult to pass first time around, primarily because coercive control is not easily understood, but also because it relies on the victims' willingness and ability to report and involve police.

Will they be believed? Will the abuse escalate when police get involved? Will they be blamed for the abuse committed against them? Social reform takes a long time, but it will happen eventually.

For further reference visit www.whiteribbon.org.au

  • Roger Yeo is a White Ribbon Australia Ambassador