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Author: Heidi

Hey you! I'm Heidi. I've been working in the anti-violence against women sector as an educator, advocate and activist for the past 10 years. I work with survivors and advocates to ensure that their voices are heard in the development of policies, laws and programs, to overcome structural oppression and injustice. I’m a coffee addict and a social justice nerd and I’m here to help you become a sexual violence saboteur and a domestic violence disrupter.

Get your thinking cap on: 16 Days of Activism are nearly here!

Hello Dear Reader!

Guess what? The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Violence will be happening late November, so get excited!

What? You haven’t heard of it? Never fear- I’ve got your back.

What is it? 

Well basically, the 16 Days of Activism is a world-wide campaign that connects two important UN observational Days: 25 November (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and 10 December (International Human Rights Day), thus cementing the ideology that women’s rights are human rights and that violence against women is therefore a human rights issue.

Ok, Heidi, but what does one “do” during the 16 days of Activism?

Oh, touché! It’s really about inspiring action to address violence against women, so it will look different for different people, which means there are heaps of innovative opportunities to catalyse change!

Are you a change-maker?

Contributing to social change doesn’t have to be daunting, un-rewarding, all-consuming work (in fact, most activists would argue otherwise)- it’s about following your passion and making a difference!

And guess what!? It really doesn’t take much to make a difference!  Especially this day in age with the help of our dear friend, technology.

So get excited because, I’ve got a butt-load of ideas for you- some are bigger and more time-consuming, others can be super-quick and I’ve also added some medium-effort ideas too! Hopefully, there’s something for everyone.

Alrighty, here we go:

  • Make a donation to a women’s refuge (hot tip: ring them first and ask if there’s anything in particular they really need, or that their clients would appreciate- sometimes they get so inundated with certain items that they actually NEED other stuff and sometimes it can be nice for their clients to get items like Hoyts movie passes or something that will bring a bit of joy and excitement to what can otherwise be a really challenging and traumatic time in their life) you could just donate $ instead if that’s an option for you.
  • FUNdraiser anyone? This is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if fundraising is your jam (or you want to have a crack, cause, why not?) then this could be the strategy for you! You could throw a bake sale and enlist all your colleagues/friends/uni mates/whatevs to bake up some goods! Or you could just hold a morning tea, tell everyone to bring a plate and ask your peeps to drop a few dollars- doesn’t have to be much. Or you could throw a collective garage sale! I’m just free-styling off the top my head here, but you probably have way cooler ideas then me, so get creative!
  • Volunteer! Find a worthwhile cause or organisation to donate your TIME and/or skills to. You will meet new people, learn new things and it will be fun (most-likely, I mean, c’mmon I can’t guarantee that, but it’s my wish for you)!
  • Find your social justice voice! Ok, Heidi, but what the hell does that even mean? Depends! Be creative, follow your instincts and follow your rage (yes- your rage!). What fires you up? What micro-aggressions are you tired of hearing all the time? Think laterally on this one. It will look like different things for different people:

>Maybe for you it’s writing a letter to the editor of the community paper regarding a ridiculously sexist article you can’t believe was published.

>Devastated about the outcome of the American election? Maybe (yes, I am psychic!) you are sick and tired of hearing Donald’s trump bullshit, bullshit, bullshit (said the same way Sarah Marshal would say to the character Russell Brand plays in Forgetting Sarah Marshal) and what it means that people would rather vote for a white supremacist, misogynistic, self-proclaimed sex offender, over a woman. Write a blog post about that crap, or Tweet it out. Maybe you just share an article on Facebook with a bit of a rant in your post. Share your voice!

>Maybe you think of a really clever response to one of those micro-aggressions that is really pissing you off. Keep it up your sleeve for next time you need it.

>If you’ve got a lot of time, a lot of fire and can mobilise the people-power you could even be so bold as to organise a rally or protest. Dream big, yo. Dream big.

>What about a petition? Is there something that really urkes you? Mobilise the peeps! Or just sign one that is already happening that aligns with your concerns. There’s heaps out there. My favourite two places to start are www.fairagenda.org and www.getup.org.au

>Is there any particular legal, policy or program issue that drives you nuts or is super unfair? Write to your local MP. Their job is to represent their local community and their currency is human stories!!

Ok Heidi, you’re definitely getting me excited here, but do you have any ideas for someone just wanting to dip their toes into this whole activism thing? Sure do, sis! Sure do! You could:

  • Like or follow a worthwhile organisation, cause, or public figure. Need ideas? Here are some of my faves (but there are many and this is not a comprehensive list), I have a LOT of favourites because there’s so many people/organisations/causes working to make a difference:

>Everyday Feminism

>Our Watch

>Australian Women Against Violence Alliance

>WESNET

>Clementine Ford

>Tara Moss

>And, sorry for the shameless self-promotion here, but seriously- what kind of blog-post would this be if I didn’t say my own gig- Towards Freedom

  • Learn! (Yusss, I just said “learn!”, I’m a nerd- sue me ;) during the 16 Days Of Activism there will be “Teach-Ins” on Twitter under the hashtag #GBVTeachIn be sure to check them out.
  • Teach! Educate other people in whatever way feels right for you. Maybe you have a crack at blogging, maybe you Vlog, maybe you just Tweet, maybe you talk to people IRL. Choose your own adventure- the world is your oyster!
  • Attend a 16 Days of Activism Event or Activity! I’d post links, but it’s a global event- just google it! There’s usually cool stuff happening near you!!
  • Check if your workplace has a domestic violence policy! If they don’t, consider lobbying for one. This is important shit!

Bottom line? There is something for everyone and there’s no excuse not to contribute one small thing that when multiplied by other small things globally, will make a HUGE difference! Got more ideas? Share them below!

Thanks for sparing some time to read this! I appreciate it :) Now go forth and get excited!

Xx Heidi

5 reasons why everyone should learn about domestic violence

I’m sure you’ve heard it before- “Violence against women is a GLOBAL social problem of EPIDEMIC proportions.”  But if it’s not something that’s happening within the scope of your life in some way, it can be easy to gloss over without understanding the true depth of the issue. Because why would I care about the score of the latest footy match if I have no interest in sports, right? People generally tend to learn about things that have some kind of bearing on their own life.

Well, I’ve got some news for you. Maybe it’s surprising, maybe it’s not; but here are 5 reasons why EVERYONE should learn about domestic violence- even you.

1. Because you already know someone experiencing it

Yep- straight up, not joking and probably more than just one person. 1 in 4 Australian women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner and 1 in 6 Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner.

1 in 4 and 1 in 6. That’s damn scary. These are not just statistics; these are undoubtedly people you know; your colleagues, your friends, your classmates, your clients, your customers. Whenever you’re in a room full of people, a proportion of them have experienced domestic violence.

Would you pay attention to a Stop Sign if you didn’t know what it meant? You can’t see the signs of domestic violence if you don’t know how to read them and if you can’t read them you won’t notice when people in your life might be being abused. Learn to read the signs of domestic violence to support the people in your life to live free from fear.

2. Because you want to respond appropriately to someone who discloses to you

If you can’t recognise the signs that someone might be being abused, it is less likely that someone would tell you. But it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. I have had many people tell me that they had someone disclose abuse to them, but they simply didn’t know what to say or do. They were out of their depth.

I have had even more survivors tell me the harsh things family, friends, nurses, doctors, employers, teachers or police said to them after they disclosed:

– “But what were you wearing?”

– “What did you do that made him so angry?”

– “I can’t imagine him hurting you like that, I’ve never seen him be violent- he’s such a nice guy.”

– “Why would he want to stalk you?”

– “It’s your word against his, love.”

All of these phrases send a message. A message that the victim isn’t really worthy of being believed, or that it mustn’t really be that big of a deal, or that the victim is somehow at fault for the abuse.

People often don’t understand the consequences of their responses and honestly, I don’t think any of them meant to put the victim down and cause further harm. I think they were just trying to better understand the situation. You see, we’ve been so conditioned to blaming victims that we do it all the time without even noticing. But it’s not a survivor’s role to educate us or help us understand domestic violence; that onus is on as a society.

By the time someone is ready to disclose, it’s already bad. So bad. And they’ve been doing so many things to manage the violence and keep themselves safe. But it’s come to a critical point of realisation where they’ve decided to make themselves vulnerable in demonstrating great courage to share their story- to reach out. This is a critical opportunity and the way we respond will actually effect the likeliness of the victim to feel empowered and to continue to reach out for support. If we don’t respond appropriately, victims may blame themselves and think that they deserved it or brought it on themselves (which of course, is just not so).

Responding in a way that makes the victim feel that they are unworthy of belief or somehow responsible for the violence is a form of secondary abuse and can have lasting traumatic effects. It is so important that we seize these opportunities and respond with compassion and empathy. This is why you need to learn about domestic violence and understand it as a social justice problem, because even well-meaning responses can have damaging effects if they are uninformed.

3. Because you might think that separation equals safety

Separation can actually be the most dangerous time for victims as the perpetrator becomes desperate not to lose control. FYI ex-partners are one of the most common perpetrators of violence that women face. Yet, there are courts who will not grant restraining orders because the victim is now in a refuge or living somewhere else. The assumption is that because they are separated, the violence will end too. Unfortunately, this is rarely true. Think about all the murdered women (and children) we hear about in the media every week- many of them, Rosie Batty herself included had left the relationship. The violence clearly did not stop there.

Yet without a doubt, the most frequently asked question I get, is “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Again, this question is a product of our social conditioning. The need to ask this question says a lot about our own assumptions and judgments of women. When we ask this question we demonstrate our ingrained biases to hold victims (primarily women) accountable for the actions of perpetrators (primarily men); we reveal our privilege of living free from fear; and we expose the assumptions we make about victims of violence.

Learning about domestic violence is crucial; in a world where we’ve been programmed to question what women have done to deserve abuse (or why they don’t leave) rather than why men are abusing (or what are they doing to keep her from leaving), it is important to think critically about what we have been taught about gender and other societal norms so that we can question how legitimate these lessons really were.

4. Because you might not realise you’re contributing to the problem

We struggle with this because we’re accustomed to blaming women for the actions of men. We’ve been told that men and women are equal and on the surface maybe we believe it, but we get sent daily subliminal messages that women are less valuable than men. This reinforces our internal subconscious beliefs, which ensures that we continue to perpetuate this messages ourselves. Classic example: “You run/throw/cry like a girl.” We say things like this everyday without a second thought, but if you think about it, insulting someone by equating their abilities with the opposite gender is pretty sexist.  I mean, if it’s an insult for a male to be referred to as a female, that sends a reinforcing message that girls/women are lesser than boys/men.

We’ve been brainwashed and we don’t even know it!  Abusive behaviour is always a choice, but if we fail to examine the underlying causes of such behaviours, then we won’t ever be truly able to prevent domestic violence from occurring in the first place.

Domestic violence arises from inequality and injustice. It mirrors and leverages societal power structures like sexism, racism, heteronormativity, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc. If we are unaware of these larger power structures that have such a permeating influence on the way we have been taught to view the world, then we will be unable to see the ways we are sustaining the environment in which domestic violence can occur in the first instance; where perpetrators aren’t held accountable and victims continue to be blamed.

The victims in your life (unbeknownst to you or not) are listening to the way you reacted to Amber Heard’s allegations. They’re watching the stuff you share on social media about Brock Turner. They’re hearing all the things you haven’t said. The way we talk about stuff can reinforce cultural norms and also prevent victims from feeling safe to disclose. Learning about domestic violence is essential for unpacking our internal biases and critically questioning the status quo.

5. Because you probably don’t realise the immense power you have to make a difference

You make an impact on this earth whether you realise it or not. Once we become aware of this we can consciously choose what kind of difference we’re going to make instead of blindly following our social conditioning. Our thoughts and behaviours matter.

We constantly underestimate our own immense power to make a difference in someone’s life. But, you’ve already made profound impacts, the effects of which you will never truly know. Kind words or an understanding smile in a moment of despair can make the world of difference for someone- whether it’s someone you know or a complete stranger.

In a world where truly, fully listening is a lost skill, bearing witness to someone’s story and holding the space for them to be vulnerable and courageously share their feelings is a sacred gift and can make a real impact on someone’s life. Whether it’s giving them the space to fully hear their own story and explore how they really feel for the first time, letting them know you believe them or providing them with some resources or support, it really doesn’t take much to make a difference. But the more informed you are about domestic violence, the more you will realise the power you have to make a difference. Never underestimate the power of humanity.

Domestic violence is often hidden in plain sight. Surrounded by silence, shame and coercive control, victims are often prevented from reaching out. But in a world where nearly one woman a week is being murdered by her current or former partner, it’s time for us to reach in. Someone you know could be next; and it’s totally preventable.

Make a commitment to yourself, the people in your life and humanity at large; learn about domestic violence so that you can feel confident in your ability to respond with compassion, know that you’re not further perpetuating oppressive social norms and have the strength to interrupt everyday acts of sexism.