'Boys Will Be Boys' Is Not A Valid Excuse Anymore For Aggression And Abuse

Eliminating gender from any analysis of family violence would leave us with zero hope of ever actually addressing the problem.
Sandra Sully.
Sandra Sully.

There is great irony in writing or producing a story about violence against women.

Many of my colleagues often experience the trauma of inserting themselves into the violent reality of one of the millions of Australian women who has experienced abuse.

Vicariously breathing in control, fear and abuse so they can exhale it out on to a page, or down the camera. All the while knowing that no matter how many words your editor allows it will never be enough to do justice to this woman's experience.

In our digital age, the irony seeps in through comments at the bottom of articles or through a social media backlash.

Deeply personal attacks and threats are continually made against journalists who labour to bring this issue to national attention, ironically often threatened with precisely the kind of violence they seek to bring to light.

To quote: "The day of the rope draws nearer with every online whinge post you make".

Also, indignant cries of 'not all men are violent!' and 'what about violence against men?' are commonplace on the webpages of our daily tabloid newspapers.

Any feminist who has ever opened their mouth -- or put finger to keyboard on the issue of violence against women -- does so in full knowledge that this sort of venom will come back at THEM.

Of course, not all men are violent, but all victims of violence deserve support, treatment and care.

Eliminating gender from any analysis of family violence would leave us with zero hope of ever actually addressing the problem.

Prevention requires us to understand WHY the perpetrators of family violence are almost always male and why so many women are at risk of becoming -- or already are -- victims.

A recent study by Women in Media found trolling of female journalists in particular was insidious. The survey revealed that in-house journalists are most likely to experience this, with 41 percent being trolled, while 1 in 5 freelancers are cyber-stalked.

But, in spite of the trolls, the faceless keyboard assassins, who threaten our lives and the safety of our families, we persist.

We persist because we have to. Because something's got to give.

And for once, it won't be women.

Reporting on violence against women, as with mental health, has its complexities. But that does not mean that any of us should shy away from it.

Journalists, like society, are learning.

We are learning about the power of the words we use.

We are learning about the link between sexism and violence against women.

We are learning that 'boys will be boys' is not a valid excuse anymore for aggression and abuse.

We are learning... we all have the power to do something about this violence.


This is an excerpt from Sandra's speech at the Our Watch Awards ceremony last night (21 Sep, 2017).

Our Watch celebrates the journalists, editors and advocates who go above and beyond to report on violence against women.