Together we UNiTE to End Violence Against Women and Girls

Gender Equality – through the lens of our health care workers and community partners.

J002977 - 16 Days of Activism 2020_Portr

Dale Fraser

Chief Executive Officer, Ballarat Health Services

What is your role?
Chief Executive Officer


How does family violence impact the health of women and children?

Domestic and family violence is a leading cause of death for women under the age of 45.  Family violence not only has a physical impact, but also extends to emotional, psychological and sexual violence.  Whereas physical whereas is more observable and treatable, the invisible violence caused by emotional or psychological abuse can go unseen and untreated, and lead to poorer health outcomes at an intergenerational level.

 

Family violence is also linked to increased levels of homelessness and additional childhood trauma.  Victims of family violence may abuse alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism, or may defer medical treatment resulting in longer term health impacts.


How do you think COVID19 has impacted gender equality and family violence?

COVID has further amplified the impacts of inequality or family violence.  Women have disproportionately been affected by reductions in the paid labour force, and increasingly affected by increases in the unpaid labour force, in areas such as home schooling.  Women make up a disproportionately high percentage of employment roles affected by COVID, be it a reduction in paid employment from the personal services or hospitality sector, or higher demands placed upon teaching and health care workers, women have borne a higher burden as a result of COVID.

 

Social restrictions have reduced an important avenue for the victims of family violence to meet with health care professionals in a private and confidential way, or to have an opportunity to discuss their concerns with a trusted colleague or friend.  The economic impacts of COVID has increased the stressors for perpetrators of family violence, leading to increased levels of violence, alcohol consumption or online gambling, with women and children bearing the brunt of these impacts.

How do gender stereotypes drive violence against women?

Gender inequality provides the underlying conditions for violence against women, and exists where women and men do not have equal social status, power, resources or opportunities, and their voices, ideas and work are not valued equally by society.   Within this context, Our Watch has identified 4 specific gendered drivers of violence against women.  These are;

  • Condoning of violence against women – that it is somehow excusable for men to use violence in certain circumstances, that they cannot always be held responsible, or that some kinds of violence (such as sexual harassment) are not serious. Shifting blame onto the victim is another way violence is often condoned.

  • Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public life and relationships – for example, the idea that men make better leaders than women, or that men should be the head of the household and decide how money is spent.

  • Rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity – the idea that women and men and girls and boys should act in certain ways or fulfil certain roles.

  • Male peer relationships or ‘male bonding’ that emphasises aggression and disrespect towards women – for example, the way some groups of men seek to prove their ‘manhood’ or ‘masculinity’ through actions that are disrespectful, hostile or aggressive towards women.


The gendered drivers of violence is sourced from Our Watch.

What does it mean to you to be an ‘active bystander’ in healthcare?

To speak up or to act when you observe a situation to which you have an interest in and a capacity to contribute.  Passivity is not an option.

What do you think the barriers are for women and children from diverse backgrounds seeking help when experiencing family violence?

There are many barriers to women and children from diverse backgrounds in relation to family violence.  Some of the key barriers are;

  • poor interpreting services or language skills

  • a lack of knowledge about the law and your rights or where to go for help

  • fear of law enforcement authorities or government agencies

  • being socially isolated

  • accepting family violence as a culturally accepted practice

Can you provide a statement to our community about your stance on gender equality and family violence?

Equality for all, regardless of race, religion or gender is at the cornerstone of a respectful and compassionate community.  Living a life, free of family violence, is a right that we should all enjoy.  Standing up to those who perpetrate family violence or who endorse gender inequality is an obligation that we all must share, and one that I am proud to say that I reject all forms of violence and discrimination based on gender or its various other forms.