VIOLENCE against women is one of the greatest issues affecting members of the Bass Coast community.
In the past 10 years, Victorian Police statistics demonstrate that the incidence of family violence in Bass Coast is higher than the state average, and is increasing annually.
In Bass Coast between 2012 and 2014, there were 1718.8 recorded crimes against the person per 100,000 people, compared to the Victorian state average of 1043.8.
Between September 2015 and September 2016, the number of family incidents state-wide has increased by 8.9 per cent, according to Crime Statistics Victoria.
As the number of women and children who are affected by family violence continues to grow, organisations from across the shire are working hard to tackle this issue head on.
Fiona Passarin from Bass Coast YMCA and Julia Lomas from South Coast Primary Care Partnerships, are running free mentors in violence prevention training throughout Bass Coast and South Gippsland, in an attempt to highlight the link between gender inequality and the prevention of family violence.
“People don’t appreciate the link between family violence and gender inequality,” Julia said.
“This is happening behind closed doors, and the community isn’t comfortable talking about it.
“Violence against women is the leading cause of death and disability in women aged 15 to 44. That’s more than cancer, suicide, or other health concerns.”
“It’s a major preventable social issue that is a breach of human rights. It’s an issue that society needs to address and needs to talk about,” Fiona said.
The free mentoring sessions aim to highlight the link between derogatory behaviour in society and the incidence of violence committed against women.
“Unfortunately, there is an unconscious bias in our communities,” Julia said.
“Most men don’t choose to perpetrate violence. We’re not picking on either of the sexes. We’re just raising that level of understanding.
“When we refer to gender inequality, we are speaking about the unequal participation or restriction to participate in society.”
“We’re trying to create this awareness in our community, because there is such an alarming rate of violence,” Fiona said.
Sexist jokes, language, and the objectification of women can often spiral into physical and sexual assault, and in too many circumstances, murder.
According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them.
One in five women over 18 has been stalked during their lifetime, and one in five women experience harassment within the workplace.
Every week, one woman is murdered by her current or former partner.
The violence prevention training operates as a leadership program, focusing on preventing men’s violence against women.
The training views everyone as everyday bystanders who can confront, interrupt, or prevent violence, and works to make the link between gender equality and preventing violence against women.
Training sessions are discussion based, dynamic, and interactive, designed to challenge thinking, inspire people to be leaders, and to raise awareness.
The training has already been undertaken in a number of organisations and businesses across the community, including South Gippsland Water, Westernport Water, Phillip Island Nature Parks, Bass Coast Shire Council, Chisholm TAFE, and more.
And the training sessions are working.
“I recall a group of apprentices we were working with one time,” Fiona said.
“At the end of the session, I had a young man come up to me and tell me how it all made sense to him now how important it is not to be a passive bystander. That was really a standout moment for me, because he listened.
“We’re really keen to get this into the sporting clubs locally.”
Julia said that raising awareness is the key to addressing the perpetration of violence within the community.
“Be aware. Be concerned and critical of what you’re seeing and saying.
About relating it to you in your own life,” Julia said.
“Most people have a person in their lives who they love who is a woman.”
To book a session in either Bass Coast or South Gippsland, contact Julia on 5672 2494 or via email at hp@southcoastpcp.org.au