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Own your own behaviour

20 February 2015

Jo Cavanagh at the WOI awards

The journey to make a difference when it comes to family violence is sometimes frustrating. Recent figures, which show two women a week are being killed in family violence, are tragic reminders of how hard the journey is.

Jo Cavanagh, CEO of Victorian social enterprise Family Life and an Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence awardee, has some comments on where we’re getting it right.

Taking responsibility for your behaviour is high on the list of actions that can have an impact on family violence. Society is generally clear that excuses, ‘I was stressed,’, or ‘I lost my job,’ or troubles with money or whatever, don’t count.

Engaging in violent behaviour is a choice. The responsibility for that choice sits with the person who makes it. Fundamentally, that’s men’s behaviour.

Jo agrees there are women who choose violence and who are abusive. The message to them is the same, no excuses. They tend to be listening more than men have in the past, says Jo.

Getting men’s attention is important

“It’s fantastic that men are speaking up and out and acknowledging their responsibility. The fundamental change is in self-discipline. There’s not some magic service or government money. It’s about taking responsibility for the choices we make in how we conduct our relationships and how others experience us in the world. If you choose violence then you need to be held responsible and accountable for that choice,” says Jo.

Changing attitudes is important

Child abuse and family violence were not in the past ‘viewed’ as crimes by a larger proportion of people than many would think, and for some people a conceptual problem still exists: ‘It’s someone’s family and so therefor it’s their business. It’s private’.

As Jo points out, “If the behaviour happened between two men in the street, no one would have a problem saying, it’s a crime. In the family context it’s been wrapped in silence. The reality is, we now know it’s not a private matter, it’s actually public because the costs of that behaviour are met by the public, socially and financially. An assault is an assault and it’s a crime. There are no excuses.”


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