One of the reasons why domestic violence is so prevalent is because of widely held beliefs and attitudes that fuel violence against women and that normalise the use of violence and other controlling behaviours within intimate partner and family relationships.
One of the ways that you can help to stop domestic violence is to be a ‘Conversation Champion’ by challenging these beliefs and attitudes – safely and respectfully – when you come across them in everyday conversations – whether those conversations are in person, by text, or on social media.
If you hear or see abuse – or what might be abuse as it’s not always obvious – then it is really important to do or say something:
Otherwise, if you hear something like this:
Statements, jokes, or stories that put down women, degrade women, or in any way imply that women are not as good or as valued as men or imply that the man should always be the boss in a relationship
Statements that in some way place all or some of the blame on a victim or victims for violence perpetrated against them e.g. that both people are responsible, that victims ask for it or want it or it’s their fault for putting up with it
Statements, jokes or stories that make light of violence within relationships or families or minimise the impact on victims
Unhelpful beliefs or myths about domestic violence, e.g. that domestic violence is caused by alcohol or mental illness or poor impulse control or stress; that abusers are monsters, that domestic violence doesn’t happen in gay and lesbian relationships, that domestic violence only happens to poor people – go here to read myths and facts about domestic violence
Then you can do this:
Make it clear that you disagree, or that you think what they’re saying is not okay. ‘That joke is not OK.’ ‘Focusing on safety for women doesn’t mean I don’t care about men. Of course male victims deserve to be safe too.’
Let the other person know what you think or how what they’ve said makes you feel ‘I feel really sad OR I’m really disappointed that you think that is funny.’ ‘It sounds like you’re blaming the victim – that’s not fair.’
State the facts and let them know where you got your facts from. ‘Maybe you’d feel differently if you knew how many women and children are abused in this country.’ ‘I don’t think that’s true. I read on Shine’s website that…’
When someone asks you a question, if you don’t know the answer, you can always say you’ll find out and get back to them. You can ring the Shine Helpline for advice at 0508-744-633, or go to the NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse website where you will be able to find just about any kind of information relating to domestic violence: www.nzfvc.org.nz
If the person you’re talking to seems to have very entrenched and unhelpful attitudes, plant a seed by saying something, then leave it alone. If they just want to argue, but you don’t think anything you say will change their mind, then you can agree to disagree. Sometimes all you can do is plant the seed, then it’s up to that person and others as to whether that seed ever grows.
Getting into a heated argument is not likely to change the mind of someone who has unhelpful beliefs and attitudes, so if it is heading in that direction, stay calm and model respectful behaviour, and then you might want to agree to disagree and change the topic.