You may have heard the slogan, “Not all men.” What does it mean? Is it relevant, true or legitimate? What does it mean for women and their need for self defence? Today we take a close look at violence against women in Australia, and its alarming prevalence.
The Situation for Women
Rapists and murderers of women do not walk around with t-shirts identifying themselves in block capitals, so sadly, many women remain wary of ALL men. We have all heard - and sometimes even policed - girls and women accordingly: don’t take sweets from strangers, don’t go out looking like that, don’t walk home alone, don’t take a lift, don’t drink too much, don’t leave without your friends, don’t forget to hold your keys like a weapon, don’t wear shoes you can’t run in, don’t take shortcuts, don’t forget to text you’re home safe, don’t stay out late, don’t answer the door, don’t let anyone in. Unless of course, your killer is your partner. According to the Femicide Census, 92% of women murdered knew their murderer.
The statistics show that not all men are rapists, obviously. But most rapists are men. Not all men are catcallers, harassers, intimidators, murderers… but the massive majority of those who perpetrate these crimes and behaviours are indeed men.
So holding up your hands and saying you’re one of the good guys is not enough; being a fantastic partner is not enough; being a feminist is not enough. You need to do more. You need to be active, not passive or neutral. If you are a woman; upskill yourself to feel confident enough to defend yourself. If you’re a man; encourage the women you love to be strong if in a situation they feel threatened!
COBRA wants to see an Australia free from all forms of violence and abuse against women. This is every woman’s right and everyone’s responsibility. We understand the complexities that enable violence against women and aim to teach women the foundations of self defence so they are capable of handling assault situations.
Dispelling the Myth
The basic premise of the “Not All Men” movement is that, in the context of alarming statistics showing significant levels of violence against women, it is unfair on men because not all men hurt women. Of course, that is true. However most women are hurt by men. And sadly, a LOT of women are hurt by men. “Not all men” is therefore a bad-faith argument where a male redirects a discussion about sexism, misogyny, rape culture or women’s rights to instead be about how none of that is his fault. It is a very simplistic and inadequate response to a very big and complicated problem that sees one in three women the victim of physical violence in Australia.
The error in the #notallmen movement was highlighted in 2014 by artist Matt Lubchansky when he updated his popular webcomic series, "Please Listen To Me", with a new comic called “Save Me.” It features a presumably mild-mannered fellow in a polo shirt who spots the “Man Signal” and barrels into a phone booth to emerge as a fedora-masked Not-All-Man, “defender of the defended” and “voice for the voiceful.” He catches the whiff of misandry in the air — a pink-haired woman in the middle of saying “I’m just sick of how men…” — and smashes through a plate-glass window to play devil’s advocate.
It’s a sharp, damning satire and it struck a nerve. The comic was retweeted and reblogged tens of thousands of times. Nerd hero Wil Wheaton, comedian Paul F. Tompkins, and comics artist Matt Fraction were among its social media boosters. Within a few days, science fiction writer John Scalzi, who frequently wades into feminist discussion, ranted about the “not all men” defense and followed up by posting the comic.
For us at COBRA and many people across Australia, it is clear that violence against women is not perpetrated by all men. But it certainly is enough men, making it essential for girls and women to be armed with basic self defence strategies to assist them in an assault situation. For COBRA and one in three women, that will hopefully be enough.
What is Violence Against Women?
The definition of violence against women can be found in the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.
Violence against women affects women’s well-being and prevents them from fully participating in society. It impacts on families, the community and the nation. Violence against women is a gendered issue.
To prevent violence against women, we must understand its gendered nature:
Women are far more likely than men to experience sexual violence and violence from an intimate partner, and with more severe impacts. Women are more likely than men to be afraid of, hospitalised by, or killed by an intimate partner. Around 95% of all victims of violence, whether women or men, experience violence from a male perpetrator.
Violence against women occurs across cultures and communities. It takes many forms, including physical, sexual, social, emotional, cultural, spiritual and financial abuse, and a wide range of controlling, coercive and intimidating behaviour. Regardless of the form it takes, it is understood to be most often used by men and its impact is to limit and control women’s independence. It’s important to understand that violence against women does not always need to involve physical abuse – often other forms of abuse (for example verbal abuse and threats, social isolation, limiting access to money) can be enough to impact a person’s behaviour and cause them to be fearful. Women often describe these non-physical forms of abuse as being severely damaging to their self-esteem, independence and wellbeing. COBRA understands that the range of types of violence and their impacts on women and girls occur on a continuum, so that behaviours such as sexist jokes are seen as resulting from the same culture that enables physical and sexual assault, and even murder of women and girls. This understanding explains why the impact of various kinds of abuse on women and girls increases with experiences and can affect their safety and wellbeing in different ways. The Evidence
In order to stop violence against women, it’s important to understand the scale, forms and impacts of abuse that women experience in Australia. In Australia, one in two women have experienced being sexual harassed, and women are almost three times more likely than men to have experienced violence inflicted by a partner since the age of fifteen. Family violence and/or intimate partner violence is the leading cause of serious injury, disability and death for women in Australia. On average, one woman a week is killed by her intimate male partner. Women who experience additional inequalities due to race, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic status often experience higher rates of violence and face additional barriers to seeking support. In order to stop violence against women, our social actions need to challenge gender inequality and also other systems of discrimination, such as racism, classism, ableism and homophobia, and the ways these intersect.
What do we mean when we say that violence is gendered? International and national research identifies that the common factor in violence against women, men and people with diverse identities, is that it is overwhelmingly perpetrated by males. While men can also be victim/survivors of violence and abuse, from females and also same-sex male partners, research shows that males and females experience different kinds of violence, in different contexts, and with different impacts. Frequently, men’s abuse of women includes more than one kind, often used repeatedly and together, causing women to feel undermined, intimidated and afraid for their safety and wellbeing, and that of their children and families. It is also more likely to lead to serious injury, disability or death. In 2017, the Australian Personal Safety Survey found that men are more likely to be physically assaulted by other men, usually strangers, outside of their home. In contrast, most women (92%) reported being assaulted by a man they knew, mainly in their home (65%). When women do use violent behaviours, research shows that it is usually motivated by fear and is used in self-defence against violence that is already being done to them by their male partners. This is why addressing family or intimate partner violence is a key element to stopping violence against women. We also know that when women and people with diverse identities experience violence, the impact is worsened by structural inequalities that limit their access to health care, employment, services and other supports.
What We Can Do
The key to coping with all this alarming information is to be armed with knowledge and empowered with skills. At COBRA Ladies Only Self Defence courses we help busts the myths and address the most common misconceptions women have towards men and assault situations.
We ask women to ask themselves; why you are worth protecting? Who do you need to get home to tonight? How important is that to you? We address the basics of self protection and talk about how predators select their victims. Importantly, we teach women simple ways to defend themselves against attackers with proactive, verbal and physical strategies. It’s all about harnessing the natural feminine power so that not just enough but ALL of our mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and girlfriends are safe today and every day.
Visit https://www.cobraselfdefence.com for more information on our programs and upcoming courses.
 Vichealth. (2017). Violence against women in Australia. An overview of research and approaches to primary prevention. https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/-/media/ResourceCentre/Publicationsand Resources/PVAW/Violence-Against-Women-Research-Overview.pdf  Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP), https://www.theduluthmodel.org/wheels/  Meaning “has been subjected to one or more selected behaviours which they found improper or unwanted, which made them feel uncomfortable, and/or were offensive due to their sexual nature” ANROWS https://d2rn9gno7zhxqg.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/19030556/ANROWS_VAW-Accurate-Use-of-Key-Statistics.1.pdf In the 10 years from mid 2002 to mid-2012, 488 women in Australia were killed by their intimate partner (Cussen & Bryant, 2015; Bryant & Bricknell, 2017). ANROWS https://d2rn9gno7zhxqg.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/19030556/ANROWS_VAW-Accurate-Use-of-Key-Statistics.1.pdf  Victorian Government. (2017). Summary report: Primary prevention of family violence against people from LGBTI communities https://d2bb010tdzqaq7.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/11/07033421/Summary-report_Preventing-FV-against-people-in-LGBTI-communities-Accessible-PDF.pdf; ANROWS; https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/legal/submission/violence-against-women-australia-2017  Our Watch, 2019 p.16  INCLUDE REFERENCE FROM FLOOD ETC. & ANROWS https://handbook.ourwatch.org.au/resource-topic/the-link-between-gender-inequality-and-violence-against-women  Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017). Personal safety, Australia, 2016. Canberra, ACT: Author. Retrieved from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4906.0  Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017). Personal safety, Australia, 2016. Canberra, ACT: Author. Retrieved from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4906.0  WHO 2002; Swan et al. 2008
violence against women and their children in Australia. Our Watch, Melbourne. https://www.ourwatch.org.au/change-the-story/