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Throwing a light on the dark side

In response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence (and its 227 recommendations), the Victorian Government commissioned The Shannon Company, in partnership with BehaviourWorks, to develop a public education campaign aimed at moving family violence to the forefront of things we have to deal with as a community.

But with something like this, where do you start? Unpack and understand, then trial and trial again.

Let’s unpack the words ‘family’ and ‘violence’. A domestic dispute may conjure images of a couple arguing at home (often dismissed in the past as ‘just a domestic’), which can downplay the seriousness of the violence taking place.

Family, on the other hand, acknowledges it’s not just intimate partner violence that’s the issue. And, there are many permutations of a family; couples, siblings, inter-generational relationships or blended families.

And while violence can be physical, the way we think about it can also be emotional, financial and psychological abuse, including controlling and coercive behaviours.

Who needs to change?

Eighty per cent of reported violence is perpetrated by men. While this is the starting point for the campaign – male perpetrators abusing their female partners – we need to realise it’s just the start of a longer shift in attitudes; by reinforcing respect and equality, the campaign aims to build an environment in which both women and men feel comfortable to seek help.

Towards respect and equality 

The phrase ‘For our children’s future’ was tested and resonated strongly with focus groups.

It’s a powerful means to get men to reflect on the damage that violence can do, as well as suggesting generational change; our children don’t have to grow up witnessing acts of control and violence. 

The Big Picture

These attitudes aren’t located to one problem area, social class or particular ethnicity. By highlighting something any community finds unacceptable – the devastating effect violence can have on female victims and the children witnessing it – the campaign targets all Victorians across rural, remote and urban areas.

It’s also expected that initially, reports of violence will increase as people feel more comfortable in reporting something they may have been denying or making excuses for. This is part of the process – raising the issue makes it front of mind so we will see and hear more about it in order to address it.

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Longer term, further goals include changing perpetrator, victim and bystander behaviour and providing information such as:

– seek help if you are concerned about your own behaviour.

– report someone if they abuse others.

– speak up when you know it’s going on.

This is what social norming means; behaviours that are no longer exceptional, they’re expected.

Other initiatives include the respect agenda in schools, increased awareness of safe houses, education programs for first responders, night courts and special family courts. As the NCAS reports notes, “there is a long road ahead”.

For BWA and The Shannon Company, results aren’t expected until late 2017. Let’s hope – for our children’s future – this dark subject has some light at the end of the tunnel.

Images with thanks to The Shannon Company.