A poke in the guts or a tender touch. Understanding and responding to Domestic Violence today.

I was talking to a teacher this week about a forum I went to recently discussing domestic violence. The evening was called Domestic Violence ‘Finding a solution.’ I mentioned that the guest speakers included a representative of the Police Family Violence Unit and the Director of Trauma and Australian Psychological Society. I shared that the Police Officer was talking about the steep increase in domestic violence reports, doubling in a year from around 600 reported cases to 1200 in Melbourne’s Monash area alone. (That is huge and alarming to say the least.) The teacher asked why is that, is it because more people are speaking up?

This is an interesting question, as I often hear many people ask the same question when referring to rising statistics of illness and disease around the world commenting: ‘Yeah but isn’t that just because more cases are being recorded,’ ‘isn’t that just because the population is growing?’

When I looked up the recent statistics on current cancer diagnosis and the mortality rate listed on the Australian Cancer Council website I instantly found the below statistics. 

  • An estimated 126,800 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia this year, with that number set to rise to 150,000 by 2020.
  • Around 19,000 more people die each year from cancer than 30 years ago, this is due mainly to population growth and ageing.           

The thing if we find any amount of justification in these insane numbers (representing people) by referring to our rising population and increase in reports etc… Where does that leave us? How does this support us to understand why 95% of the world today are in illness and disease (the 2013 Global Burden of Disease Study found) why more people are being abused everyday world wide? The number of people being abused in Australia alone is out of control, for example:                  

  • Just under half a million Australian women reported that they had experienced physical or sexual violence or sexual assault in the past 12 months.
  • Two Australian women are killed every week with many by people they know well.

When we read these statistics it is important we ask why?  Our willingness to question and to truly understand why our world is getting sicker, why people are getting more abusive, why people are not doing well physically and psychologically is paramount. If we don’t stop to understand what is contributing to rising statistics, what are we doing full stop?

It is like we are calling in maintenance to fix a hole everyday year after year on the same wall, only the hole returns each time getting bigger and bigger. In this repeat pattern it is like we never bother to ask why on earth is this happening? We just keep coming back each time investing more money in putty, patch jobs and paint that ‘should work this time.’ Not truly stopping to ask what is causing the hole in the first place and how can we support in what ever way is needed to understand the cause. 

When it came to question time at the forum, one gentleman in the audience stated that we need to educate our youth in high schools about domestic violence, and the issues that surround it. One of the presenters on the panel who is the founder and CEO of impact for Women, mentioned this is going to happen, as respectful relationship programs are being included in the 2016 Australian curriculum. It was followed by stating the current school curriculum is so jam packed there has been and still is very little space to come in and run programs, sharing it is even difficult to find time for the police to come in and talk to students. It was also announced this needs to happen much younger than high school, stating this needs to start in primary schools…and young.

This was a perfect introduction, as I was noted the next person to ask a question. In this moment I introduced myself to a room full of elderly rotary members, I shared that I am a newly qualified primary school teacher and have worked with young people for over ten years years, from babies, early years, primary and secondary years students, to now working with teenagers who have come from homelessness, whilst also working in primary schools currently. I explained, I am very interested to understand our young people of all ages, as I have a deep care for the health and wellbeing of our youth and the issues they face in today’s modern world.

I stated in knowing the very beautiful nature of children, it is interesting to note that I have never seen or heard of a toddler who beats another child black and blue, this is not in their delicate nature. From here I asked:

What is it about our current society that sees our children grow up from tenderisers to terrorisers?

What changes where a child goes from tender, playful and joyful to explosive, violent and full of rage? 

I explained that I have been working in a program called the boy to man program for grade six boys. This is a program aimed to support the social and emotional development of boys age 10-12, as it is recognises there are many issues boys this age are dealing with. I explained being part of this program highlighted many of the challenges kids face today, and allowed me to see how even boys as young as 10 were talking about the anger and rage they experienced daily. I shared in hearing the contributing factors that fuel the raging I can actually understand how these gorgeous young men progressively escalate and become abusers as they get older, as alarming as that is to even say. 

I shared that when boys are born, they seem to be born into a box of imposed ideals and beliefs, of what it is ‘to be a man.’ Many of these beliefs tell boys that they are weak if they express themselves, they are gay if they show their feelings, they need to toughen up if they dare get emotional or show their sensitivities, they are a woose if they are their naturally tender selves. I shared that these pressures are crushing our young men, as I have listened to boys share first hand how stuck and awful this leaves them feeling. I continued to share that many of the boys I have worked with felt they had no one to talk to.

When asking boys: How do you deal with the tension if you don’t feel you have anyone to talk? Many reply… normally our tension builds up and up until we rage. With many sharing they damage things, swear, think of self-harming, play sport or video games, eat junk food, explode, or just shut down and feel depressed.

As I shared all of this, the facilitator of the evening cut in and said we need to talk to boys in sport clubs and moved onto someone else. I thought to myself, we need to talk to boy’s full stop. With such a ‘busy curriculum’ where we leave little space to talk about the realities of life, and the ‘man box’ of imposed ideals and beliefs we are setting our boys up to struggle in life. We set boys up to rage as they are filled with overwhelming frustration from holding back all they have to express from all they feel and experience each day. As they do not feel safe,  nor do they feel they have the space or confidence to be their true selves. To break the mould that tells them who they have to be, how they should act, how ripped they should be, who team they should play or barrack for.

At this point it was called a night, as everyone wanted to get to their chicken parma’s and pints in the restaurant below, yet I took a bold moment to add.

We can walk away from this evening having an understanding and concern that domestic violence is getting worse in our community, we can also try and find answers and solutions to this escalating reality, we may find comfort to hear that domestic violence is getting a more air play in the media, we may find that because many cases of domestic violence are linked to people newly migrated to Australia and also from lower socio economic backgrounds that so long as it is not in our backyard then it is not really our responsibility or concern.

I stated one thing we have not addressed is that when we were all growing up, we did not have access to video games where we could rape and kill people. Music video clips did not glamorise violence and abuse like they do today, hardcore aggressive pornography was certainly not accessed at the click of a button.  Alot is changing and quickly in many areas of society and we need to talk and address all of them, as the impact these intensifying changes are having are affecting our younger and older generations in more ways then we currently may choose to be aware of or know how to deal with.

In finishing I said, there is no one in this room that does not know the difference between a poke in the guts and tender touch. I said this tender way of being and loving quality is all of us equally. This quality is us when we we are born and it can be us today. Our loving choices make a difference. Changing Domestic Violence today starts with us.

As everyone broke away for dinner the event organiser handed me her business card, apologetic the kitchen was closing and the evening had to end so everyone could make their way to dinner. I expressed I understand 🙂 as she shared she would love to catch up and talk further about the points raised and discussed.


One thought on “A poke in the guts or a tender touch. Understanding and responding to Domestic Violence today.

  1. Wow, Emilia, good for you, I love how you spoke out at the end, when everyone was leaving for the dinner. Maybe it will get through to some people. It is so sad that to a large extent, people don’t want to truly know about all that you were sharing with them. But, on the other hand, I feel they will not totally forget, it will be there at the back of their minds. And some may feel to start talking about it more, and looking to put some of what you shared into action. Thank you for sharing.


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