White Ribbon Day is an opportunity to have a conversation with our kids and loved ones to shape the next generation and help irradicate violence against women and families, says Bodhi owner Heaven Leigh.
You might have heard the stat that on average one woman a week is killed by an intimate partner. Horrifying, isn’t it?
Men’s violence against women continues to be an issue in Australia. Even if you’re not directly exposed to the issue, you can play a very significant role in preventing it.
And prevention is key.
Getting in early, before violence takes place, to change attitudes, educate, and grow awareness of the importance of equality, respect and kindness.
There’s no single cause for violence against women, but according to White Ribbon Australia, root causes include beliefs and behaviours reflecting disrespect for women, low support for gender equality and adherence to rigid or stereotypical gender roles, relations and identities.
And the forming of these beliefs and behaviours start from childhood.
As a parent, I feel I have an important opportunity to make a difference in creating a future free from violence, to play a significant role in preventing family abuse and violence against women for future generations.
It’s never too early to start teaching children what is ok and what is not ok in a relationship, to build for them the understanding of what a healthy and respectful relationship looks like.
And the message needs to be loud and clear for both boys and girls.
I have one of each, and while there are many lessons and values which relate to both of them, I also think it’s important to tailor some messages to each of them individually.
For boys, it’s important to discuss how to communicate feelings with words, not physicality, and to help them explore ways in which to handle frustrating situations by channelling their emotions in a healthy and constructive way. I also think it’s important to talk about equality and how best to treat others so that when they grow up they learn to value, respect and honour the women in their lives.
For girls, it’s crucial to spend time exploring and teaching them about self-worth and understanding their value, and how to love themselves before they learn to love another. I also think it’s important to discuss how not to feel pressured in a relationship and how to set healthy boundaries.
For both, it’s important to highlight how to show others that you respect, value, love and care about them. In my family, we talk about love, trust, teamwork and partnership, and finding others who bring out the best in you. We talk about shared values and goals, the importance of communication and mutual respect, kindness and support. And, of course, equality.
We also talk about the all important life skill of knowing when to walk away.
Growing the message
As my kids get older, we’ll start adding in more discussion around what is important in a partner and the pillars of a happy successful relationship. And importantly, how to spot an unhealthy relationship, and the effects of drug and alcohol abuse and the role it plays.
Knowing how easy it is for young adults to be blinded when they first start to fall in love, I want to get ahead of that phase and educate them early, so hopefully they can trust me when I share any concerns about a relationship they are in (if it is not healthy).
I do my best to lead by example, role modelling what a healthy relationship looks like by showing them in my own relationships is so important.
Events like White Ribbon Day, where the conversation is topical and far reaching, present a great opportunity to stop and have the conversation with our children to shape then next generation.
And hopefully together we can end violence against women and families, sooner rather than later.
To find out more or to join the movement to end violence against women: White Ribbon Australia.