Facebook followers were recently invited to send questions to Rachael Taylor, Lead White Ribbon Champion, as part of White Ribbon Australia's 'Uncover Secrets' campaign.
Rachael has personally responded to six questions. Please see these questions and answers below.
I think that the single most empowering thing a woman who is the victim of domestic violence does is go through a certain reckoning with themselves, an internal acknowledgement that the acts of violence or abuse committed against themselves are happening and real and that they are wrong.
Looking back there is a real shift that I can identify, a certain internal shift that resulted in a pledge of allegiance to myself. I know this sounds very arcane, very mysterious, but I can absolutely attest to a moment of personal change and honesty with myself from which great external change grew.
Denial and shame can be a very potent adversary for a woman who is trying to reconcile the fact that she is victim of abuse. It can take a series of realisations to combat these feelings but ultimately this personal ‘ratification’ of sorts is an incredibly empowering act. It is the first step of honesty with oneself that can allow broader honesty with people around us, speaking out, asking for help etc.
As bystanders to violence or simply as people who wish to see the ends of men’s violence against women in Australia in our lifetime, it is important to understand how difficult it is for a women who is the victim of violence to proclaim that she is a victim. If we understand the complexities that victims face, we can better understand what we can do to help them and engage in a more comprehensive and honest dialogue with them.
Check out www.whiteribbon.org.whatmencando for more.
I think you are already contributing to changing the way women in violent relationships are viewed by others!
In engaging in this dialogue and helping to debunk some of the assumptions that the wider community has about women in violent relationships you are widening the space for further conversation.
Conversation is very powerful! Through conversation we can shift public perceptions to a broader understanding of the intricacies of spousal abuse. That includes conversation about the psychological aspects of violence, be it manipulations, bullying, financial abuse, threats, insults, entrapment and the like (psychological abuse can take on a shockingly vast array of forms).
Profound social change does take time. I think we should aim to keep a dialogue that is open, public, patient and true. You are contributing already.
Helen, thank you for this. I understand how tricky this must be for you.
Threats of self harm? That is psychological abuse, and it too is an act of violence. My feeling is that our view of violence is often far too narrow, that we often expect to see a certain cliché version of domestic violence and we are not really sure how to feel or what to do when abuse and violence appears in a more surprising or obscure way.
I'm not precisely sure why we make certain assumptions about what violence is or is not, though my instinct tells me that the real issue here is that we do not want to talk about domestic violence and confront the appalling prolificness of it in our communities. So we generalise, we stereotype, we ignore, we choose to erect a certain paradigm, a certain preconceived notion in our minds about domestic violence, to protect us from acknowledging the hard fact, which is that violence against women is VERY common.
And yes, you are very right to proclaim how difficult it is to walk away from an abusive relationship. It is NOT easy, it is very hard to do! I think you are very courageous. Looking forwards, I would like to see a greater sense of conversation between women about the many forms that abuse and violence can take, both physical, psychological, sexual, financial, destruction of property etc. Thank you for contributing.
Thank you so much! It is very inspiring for me to read about other women such as yourself who are proud of themselves for leaving and who can now declare that they know it wasn't their ‘fault’.
I think this feeling of responsibility is a very potent one for women who are victims of domestic violence, and it took me a long time to understand that I was not responsible for the acts of violence committed against me. I talk a little bit more about this topic in a video I made at www.uncoversecrets.com.au.
Shame is a particularly insidious emotion and I think it often prevents us from engaging in a richer discussion about men’s violence against women in our communities. The Uncover Secrets project is one of the things we are trying to do to combat the stigmas that people have about men’s violence against women.
Spread the word for us, we are gathering video submissions from the community at large to eventually build a kind of online library of diverse thoughts and opinions about men’s violence against women.
This question provoked a lot of thoughts for me, it is a very interesting one! I’m not totally sure how to answer it?!
Listen, I don’t think there is any prescribed feeling a woman who is the victim of domestic violence should or should not have. I think an entire range of feelings can be expected. Personally speaking, I think the rule with feelings of hatred and anger is that they are fine to have, so long as they don’t hurt you or anybody else. If those feelings are not present, that’s fine too, so long as a woman is not identifying with her aggressor in a way that prevents her from understanding the gravity of the acts of violence committed against her.
There are some emotional responses that I think are important to cultivate though. Your feelings about the perpetrator are not the ones that really count, it is the feelings that you have about yourself that matter.
Accepting and knowing that all wrongdoing was not something you were deserving of, that you have self-value separate to anything or anyone around you and that ultimately you are only responsible to yourself. These are important things to think about as you move forwards.
What an astute observation. Yep, across the board we label and stereotype domestic violence, both the victims of it and the perpetrators of it. Men’s violence against women occurs prolifically across a great mass of cultures, locations and socio-economic spheres.
I have read so many stories about ‘well to do’ middle aged, middle class, professional women with “respectable” husbands who suffer years of terrible abuse (which is not to say that a woman of this “type” is more or less important than anyone else, but she is a surprising and important addition to the conversation).
One of the difficulties we face when we talk about domestic violence is that it very often occurs behind closed doors - women sometimes feel responsible to hide their abuse, they feel ashamed of it, they look to avoid the societal stigma of domestic violence and so they suffer behind closed doors.
Debunking stereotypes is one of the things myself and White Ribbon Australia are very committed to. If enough people engage in the violence against women conversation, share their secrets, opinions, stories or statements about domestic violence I feel like we could, over time, make some very solid traction in collapsing these stereotypes.
This sort of, disassembly of assumptions of violence against women in a broader cultural context is a long term aim of mine. White Ribbon and I have set up a micro website www.uncoversecrets.com.au to try and uncover secrets and hopefully combat the harmful mythology that exists around violence against women.
I say it is harmful because my feeling is that anything that is untrue, only partially true, or an assumption that prevents us all from understanding the real extent of violence against women and all of its complexities hinders our prevention of it. Thank you! Please keep sharing your thoughts with us. It really helps!