Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's not ok

You may have noticed the badge over on the right here.

It's about family violence
and is sending a strong message that
it's simply Not OK!

A few weeks ago
I participated in the 2012
Rural Womens' Growing Dynamic Leadership course.
One of the subjects that came up for discussion
that effects anyone, anywhere was
family violence.

That's domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, sibling abuse
pretty much any relationship you can have has the potential,
with the wrong ingredients to be abusive,
and with the right ingredients wonderful.

Family violence is
verbal, emotional, physical abuse and mental cruelty.
It's controlling, paralysing and frightening.

I think the strongest messages I've picked up
is that family violence is more common than you think.
We all know that people around us behave
differently towards their loved ones behind closed doors,
what we forget is that we turn a blind eye to bad behaviour.
It's not polite to interfere in other's business.
If you think you don't turn a blind eye, 
but you've just never met anyone in abusive relationships,
guess again.
You will have.

For people involved there is lots of shame at allowing themselves
to behave violently or to be on the receiving end,
so they hide it well.

In rural communities, where many families are self-employed,
their businesses are influenced by things beyond their control,
like weather, exchange rates, weather, disease, weather, location, weather
oh yeah, did I say weather?
This combined with many of the businesses being family businesses
reliant on husbands and wives working together
and being responsible for certain areas
plus long hours, kids, community responsibilities, staff,
close quarters and circumstances that are uncontrollable.
These combined with physical isolation
which allows for easy secrecy,
can make for bad ingredients for a bad situation.

For instance a wife who is in an abusive relationship
thinks about transport.
It's really easy to have your car taken away
and shops are miles away,
so food security becomes an issue.
Or if they are responsible for calf raising,
she knows no one will pick up feeding those babies
and they will die.
Or seeking help from family and friends can be difficult
when they are all part of a tightly knit group
and see your partner as a good guy,
he's a fun bloke after all.
These bonds are deep.
Or total opposite,
in the dairy industry, families move often
and it takes time to trust others,
so finding someone to help
when you don't see people as a rule
is really hard.

It's complex
but not irredeemable.

People can turn their lives around.

The first step is for all of us to know
it's not ok
to be abusive in any way.

The second is to pay attention.

The third is to ask people
are they ok?
and mean it.

You might think that family violence happens to other people,
but they thought that too.

Be brave and ask if they are ok.
Be braver and ask if you are ok.

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