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Combating Violence Against Women Needs To Start At Home

Family violence summit hears that parents, teachers are the key.

21/09/2016 3:54 PM AEST | Updated September 21, 2016 17:39

The first step in combating violence against women needs to come in the home from a young age and from parents and role models, Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner says.

The Prevalent and Preventable conference on violence against women and their children is happening this week in Adelaide, with prominent voices and experts in the sector meeting to brainstorm a way forward in fighting the scourge of family violence in Australia. The statistics are stark; one woman each week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia; one in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15; and one in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence, according to Our Watch.

Kate Jenkins, Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner, is one of those at the summit. She told The Huffington Post Australia that experts and advocates were still grappling with how to address the nation's spiralling problem with violence against women, as well as the child victims of domestic violence situations.

"We have to look at how we get to a point in 2016 where the highest risk to women under 45 is family violence. People are quite shocked by that statistic," Jenkins said.

"We've had discrimination laws around for a long time, we all say that men and women should be equal, but in practice that hasn't led to a change in culture and attitude. Prevention thinking goes to changing the system but also changing attitudes. In the family violence space we talk about 'violence supportive attitudes'. Not all men want to hit women but there is still a prevalence of attitudes that sometimes excuse [the perpetrator] or blame the victim for violence."

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Experts are now focusing more on the impact of family violence on children

Jenkins said progress was being made, but it was happening too slowly.

"There is a lot of thinking about generational change, saying that we will soon have more women in leadership roles and so on. But my generation was the one that was supposed to happen, I'm a 1960s and 70s baby," Jenkins said.

"We are still raising children with the message that women stay home to look after babies, men go to work, men are in charge, women should be pressured for sex. There are a lot of subtle messages."

She told HuffPost Australia that change needed to start at home, from parents, and that school-based equality and anti-violence programs needed to educate not only children, but their mums and dads too. She mentioned the government advertising campaign, 'Stop It From The Start', as an example of how to nip bad behaviours in the bud.

"These messages about equality can and should be taught to kids. Those lessons also need to be taught to parents, teachers and sports coaches. That's really important, that in the broader community, there is a need to educate. Its going to change by everybody having a better understanding," Jenkins said.

"I'm not an education expert but in schools I think there can a combination of teaching to children and parents. What happens at home is just as important."

Jenkins said teaching parents can help mums and dads to pass on those messages at home to their kids, to reinforce the messages learned at school.

"It's about getting mums and dads who have nothing to do with family violence seeing those subtle things, like saying "boys will be boys", to understand those little things matter. Educating kids is important and also educating adults. We've been socialised into a world where mums stay home and dads go to work, that hasn't changed much over the last 30 years."

"These still very strong gender stereotypes, they haven't shifted."

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