PMB White Ribbon Day

Mr RAMSEY (GreyGovernment Whip) (10:41): I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. This is my oath. In 2014 I took this oath when I became a White Ribbon ambassador, as part of my strong belief that women should live in safety and free from all forms of violence. For most of us it comes as the natural way of things, and presents a personal challenge to us when others either do not share our views or, maybe without specific intent—in fits of personal rage or drug induced detachment—breach the trust between a man and woman in relationships.

Women are not goods and chattels. They are not, or should not be, subservient to men and, though on average they have less physical strength than men, there is no circumstance where the exercise of physical dominance can be acceptable. Sadly and alarmingly, violence against women continues to be one of the most prevalent human rights abuses in Australia and around the world. As a White Ribbon ambassador I believe all men must act to prevent domestic violence and all violence against women. In recognition of White Ribbon Day, on 25 November, I want to speak out in defence of women experiencing violence. Being an ambassador means taking an active stand against any form of violence committed against women, and those who take this oath make a promise to live by the oath not to commit, excuse or remain silent about this issue.

Statistics can be very confronting. They are in this case, depicting an appalling story of abuse of women and children by men. It is true, I have come into contact with some men who have been victims of abuse and violence committed by their female partners, and that is no more acceptable than the violence committed against women. But the numbers overwhelmingly demonstrate that the predominance of violence is committed by men against women—in fact, some are quoted in the wording of this motion:

(a) one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them;

(b) each week approximately one woman is killed by a current or former partner; and

(c) domestic and family violence is the principle cause of homelessness for women and their children;

As men I and my fellow males, particularly those of us in positions of authority in our communities, must confront those statistics. We must publicly stand against violence and abuse. Violence comes in many forms. Emotional violence, where men control finances, isolate women from family and friends, humiliate, demean and belittle, make threats against children or threaten women with injury or death, can cause long-term emotional damage.

Anecdotal evidence shows us the vast majority of violence against women goes unreported, and its prevalence has been unbroken and has intensified through the decades. It is an intergenerational issue and the damage is long-term. Victims are left with shame, fear, resignation and powerlessness for change. Women blame themselves for not being perfect, for not trying hard enough, for not living up to what their partner demands. This is an appalling state of affairs. We must instil in our young women and girls self-worth and the complete and utter intolerance of any kind of violence. We must instil in our young men and boys respect for women.

The federal government's domestic violence campaign launched last year is part of a $100 million women's safety package targeting how parents raise young boys. Violence against women starts with disrespect. The excuses we make allow it to grow. We must support women who have suffered violence. If someone who has been suffering from domestic violence wants to make a permanent separation, they need support from family and friends and from organisations that offer safe refuge for abused women and children and that specialise in aiding victims of domestic violence. Women's stories are often unheard, but the long-term damage to them and their families is insidious. I encourage males using violence in their relationship to seek professional help and to use their networks to promote discussion and social change. Hurt people seem to hurt people. But we can do better. We need to do better. The wellbeing of both our sons and daughters is at stake.

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