Tag Archives: Violence against women

Sara, Maggie, Shane, some internet asshats and a photo essay

Trigger warning- This post is about Domestic Violence.


So while wandering around the internet a little while ago I stumbled upon an article about Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, a photographer who did a photo story on the relationship of a couple with entrenched domestic violence. She then had the photos published as the US government was debating the reauthorisation of the Violence Against Women Act.

Some of the photos are very confronting showing 31 year old Shane throwing his 19 year old girlfriend Maggie into kitchen cabinets, choking her, using his body to box her up in a corner and they even feature the couples 2 year old child stamping her feet when she sees what is going on.

When these photos were published by Time they left some details out so people looking for someone to blame had an easy copout- Sara the photographer. And did they blame Sarah? You bet they did.

They say that she did nothing, she preferred to get some great shots instead of helping Maggie, not knowing the fact she rang 911 after having to retrieve her phone from Shane during the height of the violence. They say that she should have put the camera down and tried to help not knowing that during the argument Shane gave Maggie the option of continuing in front of the camera or leaving the room to ‘discuss’ the matter privately. Maggie didn’t hesitate and chose to stay in front of the camera as it provided some level of safety knowing that he would hold back a bit if there were witnesses. They said that Sara was despicable for taking photos of the 2 year old girl watching her mother get beaten by her father and that Sara shouldn’t have continued taking photos and got the child out of the room. How were they to know that as soon as Sara and the other 2 adults witnessing the violence saw she was there the child she was removed the photo was taken as the person closest to her was reaching to pick her up.

But of course it wasn’t just the photographer’s fault! Maggie had her part to play as well. The asshats who felt the need to comment said Maggie should have seen it coming, she stays because she likes it and of course she is not the victim but in fact the perpetrator.

So if these people are to be believed the only person in that house at that time who is blameless for the despicable show of violence was Shane.

Aw fuck off.

The more that I look into this story the more angry I get, with Time, with internet wankers, with people who can’t simply understand that the whole reason that this photo essay was done was to show how horrible domestic violence is, to make you feel uncomfortable thinking that this still occurs to millions of women around the world- but also that it is still happening right here. But also to make you want to do something about it so it never happens again.

I am also getting angry at myself because I have just gone on a 500 word rant about the photography and some moronic responses to it- which is not what Sara wanted her work to be an argument about her. She wanted  to show Maggie’s story and to get people talking about domestic violence and to raise the profile of the issue. She also wants people to acknowledge Maggie left, and the strength that takes.

‘But why confront our discomfort about images when we can instead confront the photographer? Why challenge the perpetrators who commit, and the structures that underpin, this violence when we can blame its victims – and, when the evidence of violence is still too powerful, its witnesses?’

You can find more out about the photo essay here

You can find the photo essay here

You can find out more on dealing with domestic violence here

You can find national domestic violence hotline services  here

You can take the white ribbon pledge here

Mikaela Wangmann

National Women’s Officer 2013


No Turning Back


So! As O’weeks start to roll around, it’s time to re-launch the new look blog and start looking forward to the rest of the year. This will be a very busy year for Womens departments around the country; not only because the national gender pay gap widened last year, but because sexual assault rates are still disgustingly high, childcare remains inaccessible to many, there are groups still actively campaigning to remove women’s right to autonomy over her own body and women are still facing domestic violence. Women are still far less likely to be CEOs, Members of Parliament, published authors, be signed to major record labels or reach the top of any of their chosen fields BUT Tony Abbott has a legitimate chance of being our Prime Minister.

This is the reality that I find the scariest; Potential Prime Minister Abbott. The man who supports the return of  ‘at-fault divorce’. The man who, when legislation that would allow parents to view their teenagers Medicare consults and claims said “children should not be presumed to be the best judges of their own long-term interests … it is the responsibility of government – and doctors – … to support parental authority.” The man who, when Health Minister, attempted to keep the authorisation of RU486 under his complete control. The man who also misrepresented statistics and regularly attacked and demonised women who sought to access abortions. He said abortions were a ‘National tragedy’ and left a ‘legacy of shame’. The man who, last time he was in government, said “Compulsory paid maternity leave? Over this Government’s dead body, frankly.”

This is a year that we need to put our differences aside and work together to further the cause. We need to continue our work to close the gender pay gap, to put an end to sexual assault, to campaign for accessible access to childcare, to ensure that on September 14 when Australians go to the ballot box they know what is in store for them if Tony Abbott is elected.

Right now I think it is important to not only look forward, but also to consider the past to see where we have succeeded and where we can grow. The Womens department has been one of the most active in recent years- this is something that I am very keen to continue with campaigns running throughout the year which will tackle sexual assault, societal sexism, equal pay and of course – Tony Abbott. With the assistance of campus Womens Officers, feminist and Womens collectives and student organisations as a whole, I want to have an open dialogue with every Womens Officer around the country so that we can work together to tackle the issues affecting women on each and every campus and around the nation.

It is also important for us not to focus solely on womens issues on university campuses but to acknowledge that many issues women face on campus are because they are prominent in society as a whole, and this year is proving to be jam packed with events and ways for each of us – no matter where we live – to get involved. Upcoming events include

1 billion Rising. 


Is aiming to have 1 billion women and those who support women rise up on Valentines Day to end rape and rape culture all around the world.

International Womens Day -THE GENDER AGENDA: Gaining momentum.


Every year IWD is celebrated on the 8th of March to celebrate the political, economic and social achievements of women while continuing the fight for true equality. There will be fundraiser breakfasts in Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane as well as other events throughout March.

To those Womens officers, leaders of Feminist and Womens collectives, Womens rights activist around the country who I have not had a chance to speak with yet, please give me a call, flick me an email, tweet at me hell send me a letter I really want to hear from you so we can have a dialogue and work together.

Talk About It! For those of you who don’t know Talk About It is a survey that is ran biannually that looks into assault, sexual assault and rape that is perpetrated against women and women identifying university students. It is a 100% confidential online survey that only takes 15 minuets to fill out and will help provide statistics for the report to outline the problem and make universities and colleges stand up and take action. Please take the time to fill it out as it is really important that we get as many responses as possible.  You can find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=phTDc3vHxzLaWfL3F%2fiXldMT%2bbTZKzTy7g2AnVGckgU%3d

Finally I would like to – on behalf of Women around the country – thank Noni Sproule (2012 National Womens Officer) for her hard work and dedication to the position in spite of the personal attacks and demonization she faced at times. I know that I have learnt a lot from her as many have and hope to continue on her hard work in the department.  We wish you the best of luck in your post NUS endeavours. Thank you Noni!


Mikaela Wangmann

NUS National Womens Officer 2013

In my own voice: An open letter to men’s rights activists from a man

By Lucas Johnson,

First of all, let me outline that I am a man. I have at no point been involved in domestic abuse; I rely simply on the experiences of those around me. And it’s pretty clear that domestic violence is a huge issue in society.

Now let’s be clear, we’re talking about domestic violence here. We’re not talking about bar fights, or wars, but the violent acts committed in the home. In this case, statistics show that women are victims more often than men, and men are perpetrators more often than women.

At this point, I’ll introduce the concept of patriarchy. The patriarchy is the social structure that places men in positions of power. And in case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in one. In the home, men are seen to be the breadwinners, while women are expected to take on a more nurturing role. We see this extend workplaces where executive roles are overwhelmingly male-dominated, while nurturing roles such as nursing, teaching and social work are female-dominated. I could provide many more examples.

Patriarchy creates pressures on both sexes. Pretty much everybody agrees here. Men feel pressured to be strong, to not show emotion, and to succeed. This creates numerous health problems, as men are much less likely to report health scares to the doctor, are at higher risk of untreated mental illness, and yes, are unlikely to report domestic abuse.

However, compare this to the problems faced by women in a patriarchal society. Women still earn less money than men for doing the same amount of work. The burden of primary caregiving in most families is still given to the woman. Women in high-up roles are frequently ridiculed for external attributes, while men in these roles are almost never criticised in this way. Not to mention the obscene prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

These problems occur by virtue of women being women, and men being men, in a society where maleness and femaleness are given roles. Here is where power comes into play. In general, men are in a position of power over women, due to their societal roles.

A recent study asked members of a dating site what their biggest fear is about meeting a partner online. The most common answer for men was that the partner would be fat or ugly. The most common answer for women was that the partner would be violent and attack them. To put it simply, women are scared of men.

This is where organisations such as White Ribbon come in. The idea of openly pledging to end violence against women, just one single issue, is to help create a society where women no longer have reason to feel threatened by a man. Surely this is something we can all agree on?

For many women, their experience with male violence means that they have a fear of men. And it’s up to us to do something about it.

Now, at no point have I denied that violence by women against men is a problem. It is. At no point have I said it’s acceptable for women to hit men. It isn’t. It’s not acceptable for any person to be violent against any person.

However, I ask you this. Have you, at any point, felt threatened by the presence of a woman? If you’re alone at night, and a woman walks up to you, do you key in the emergency number on your phone? What sort of steps do you take to prevent violence from women?

Probably none.

Yet if you were to ask any woman alone at night the same question, they would probably give you a different answer.

The above situation is the truth for many women, particularly young women at universities. This is what the NUS Women’s Department’s main focus is. Have a read of the Talk About It Survey. These sort of statistics show that universities are an unsafe place for women, and this is overwhelmingly the fault of men.

But not you and not me. I’m not saying you’re a rapist no more than anybody is saying I’m a rapist. But it’s important, as a man, to try and do something about this saddening statistic. On a small scale, it’s about pledging to not be violent against women. It’s not about saying that half of the fault is women’s. That’s not constructive at all.

A Voice For Men, you are not doing our gender any favours by attacking people for trying to make the world a better place. You are personally victimising many people, particularly women, for pointing out a problem that they think is important, and trying to do something about it. In particular, there seems to be a blame placed on feminism. And you’re doing this representing men. You’re not representing me.

Remember when I mentioned the patriarchal structure that prevents men reporting violence against them? The way to bring down the patriarchy is through feminism. If you want violence against men to gain more legitimacy, you should do everything to increase the power given by society to women so that it is equal to that of men. Only then can both genders play on a level field. Only then can you report violence against men without fear of ridicule.

Until then, and until you stop continuing to harass and demean women, men, and this entire campaign, I ask you this:

Do you actually like women?

Because by the way you’re acting, it doesn’t look like it.

This is the first time we’ve had a man write for the blog. His identity has been changed to protect his anonymity and to keep from his being harassed by those who call themselves ‘A voice for men’.

A reminder that while they are likely to continue to harass us through social media, every time you feel a troll a fairy dies, so take that energy and funnel it into participating in our ‘In my own voice’ campaign. You can do so by heading here

Men’s Rights and domestic violence: not even half the problem.


If I were a man right now I would be spewing. Contrary to the popular stereotype of feminists I am not a man-hater. I know a great number of really wonderful men, some of whom are regular readers of this blog (a big shout-out to my uncle Ian who reads every day). I am a feminist first because I believe in women, but I am also a feminist because I believe in men. I believe in the ability and power of men to play a supportive role in the fight for equality for women.  I believe in men and I believe that men can do better.

Men can do better than 1 in 3 women being victims of sexual assault, 1 in 5 being the victims of domestic violence. Men can do better than tooting their horns as they drive by, they can do better than name calling and harassment, they can do better than turning their anger and pain into violence that they inflict upon their families, their partners and children.

As I say that I remind you all that I know a lot of men do do better. I know men who stop their friends from making jokes at the expense of the bruised and battered bodies of women at the hands of their partners. I know boys who don’t think that ‘rape’ is a term that should become a part of their vernacular. They don’t believe the intrusion and violation of a woman who did nothing to deserve it is comparable to a difficult exam or losing a game. These men take the White Ribbon Pledge, they speak to their friends and they stand up against violence against women. These men are good men, they deserve better.

These are the men who understand that the pursuit of equality is not something to be afraid of, it doesn’t present a threat to them. They don’t need to speak about men’s rights, they already have them, they speak about the rights of women and the rights of our society to strive for better.

Last week an organisation called ‘A voice for men’ postered Monash and Deakin university in the South East Suburbs of Melbourne, their most prominent poster was one which said ‘Domestic Violence: Women are Half the Problem’. They claim to stand up for the rights of men and represent their views. If these jokers were claiming to represent my rights, and the views of my gender I would be spewing.

First and foremost, I would like to point out that the posters have no basis in fact, women are not ‘half of the problem’ of domestic violence. That statement has no statistical nor anecdotal evidence behind it. This is not to say that men are not victims of domestic violence, there are some that are, just as men are victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. However, instances of women’s violence against men are much rarer and have not got the same cultural beliefs at their core.

Violence against women occurs because of gender inequality. Men who perpetrate violence against women do it because they believe that women have some intrinsic lesser value than men. Violence against women is rarely about the violence itself, just as rape is almost never about sex, violence against women is an expression of power.

I suppose one of the greatest injustices in equating ‘men’s rights’ with domestic violence, is the knowledge that for this group the rights of men will always be synonymous with the violent oppression of women; which is a far greater indictment upon the gender than I would ever pass.

Since the posters went up women have been speaking out against the attitudes and lies that lie within them. The women who have spoken are being harassed by those who stand for this group, the personal facebook addresses and department facebook addresses are being attacked.

So I suppose I want this blog post to act as a rallying call to any men out there. If you believe these men do not speak for you then don’t let them, stand up for your own voice and the rights of those women around you.

URM… I’m like, totally a feminist man. Let me in to your friggin’ women’s room

By Kate James

At my campus – and many others – we have a space designated specifically for women. This space, sensibly enough, is known as the women’s room.

Apparently this is the worst thing that ever happened to equality.

This sentiment is incredibly frustrating to me. Most of the time I think it’s borne out of ignorance of just how much discrimination and oppression women still face. We exist in a social climate that promotes the idea that sexism is over, that men and women are on an equal footing (or even that women have gotten greedy and now men are the ones in trouble). This is, frankly, a load of shit.

I’ve heard the argument that men are being pushed out of the jobs they deserve to make way for women, however:

  • Women chair only two per cent of ASX200 companies (four boards), hold only 8.3% of Board Directorships, hold only four CEO positions and make up only 10.7% of executive management positions.
  • In 2008, women held 5.9% of line executive management positions in ASX 200 companies; a decrease from 7.5% in 2006. Line executive management experience is considered essential for progressing to top corporate positions.
  • Women make up a third of members on Australian Government Boards and Committees.
  • Despite comprising more than half of all Commonwealth public servants, women make up only 37% of the Senior Executive Service.

I’ve heard that violence against women is a thing of the past, a rare occurrence that is blown way out of proportion. Unfortunately:

  • One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
  • Nearly one in five Australian women has experienced sexual assault since the age of 15.
  • Reporting and conviction rates for violence against women in Australia remain low. Only one in three women who experienced physical assault by a male perpetrator in the last 12 months reported the assault to the police, while just one in five who experienced sexual assault by a male perpetrator reported the assault

I’m no mathematician, but I think it’s safe to say that these statistics don’t paint the picture of a fair and balanced society, let alone some sort of conspiratorial matriarchy.

A woman recently told me that it was unfair that men aligned to feminism, men who actually believe in and fight for the end of gendered oppression, could not enter the women’s room. Shouldn’t it be a space where everyone committed to equality could congregate? Well, the thing is, I don’t think that being a man and believing in feminism makes you special or awesome. It makes you a decent person. It also doesn’t mean you forgo your privilege. And if a hypothetical man is actually pro-feminist, then I’m not sure why he would deny any of that.

There is so, so much in our society that does constitute discrimination. There are so many important issues to address. I don’t want to stifle discussion; when I’m challenged on the women’s room issue I genuinely try to be informative rather than defensive or dismissive. I’ll be honest, though: I find the rationale behind the women’s room fairly self-evident, and I think that if you’re going to be passionate about something to do with gendered oppression there are more pressing topics – topics that actually do constitute oppression, for a start.

All statistics taken from the Australian Human Rights Commission Gender Equality Blueprint 2010, available at http://www.hreoc.gov.au/sex_discrimination/publication/blueprint/index.html

Kate James is the Women’s Officer at the Monash Student Association. You can see their website here or join the women’s Facebook page here


Stop Being Dicks: A public service announcement

Recently there was significant attention given in the Western Australian press to the actions of a group of UWA students who thought it was appropriate to create an event, vaguely associated with a university club, that advertised women’s tickets to ‘sluts’ but not ‘crying sluts’.

Profound men that these were they also included a survey for prospective attendees which questioned the women’s bra size and their capability in the field of fellatio. Because, these women having achieved the goal of attending one of the most prestigious universities in the country, should count themselves lucky to be in the company of the kinds of men which sign on to these events.

To those involved I can only say, most emphatically, STOP BEING DICKS.

No, really, just stop being such unimaginative, misogynistic fucking pricks.

To them, and those that think of engaging in similar hilarity, I inform you of a fact which it would appear has escaped you. Women are people too!

They appear women in shape and size and not simply as walking orifices to be penetrated. They have faces, and eyes and noses and mouths and they all have brains too. Brains that have thoughts, thoughts that you are all just massive dicks.

I don’t even want to accuse these sorts of events of backlash, they’re not that profound or well thought out. These events are not about backlash against the theories and ideas which demand equality, they are just massive, underdeveloped dicks.

Stop being this way, no one really thinks it’s funny and I like to believe that we now live in a world where this sort of behaviour is no longer accepted by mainstream society. A society which has realised what these people have not. That women are not things but people, not orifices but individuals, not sluts but women.

There is, as with most things, a significant downside and danger to these sorts of events. Which is, that these sorts of ideas feed into a concept which says that women are worth less than men. These ideas and events translate into an acceptance and condoning of a society which allows violence against women to continue.

In the Talk About It survey of 2010/2011 86% of women reported being sexually harassed on campus. 67% reported having an unwanted sexual experience. The acceptance of these statistics is an acceptance of these sort of attitudes. To continue this behaviour is to state that women are some how worth less than men. That they  have some less intrinsic value. This is an attitude which must be rejected.

We as a society, as a community, need to stand up and say emphatically Women are people too- stop being such massive dicks.

I don’t think it’s funny, I think it’s harmful. And so does nearly everyone else.

As a group we need to stand up to these people. Until we do more than half of the women you go to uni with will experience unwanted sexual experiences. More than three quarters will be harassed on campus. They will be heckled, they will be abused and they will be raped.

Enough is e-fucking-nough .

Stop being dicks.

State Women’s Profile: Raveena Toor

Raveena Toor is a woman who I have been watching, with admiration and respect, for a very long time now. That is because Raveena has been working very hard for women on campus for a very long time. Raveena manages to take on the hard stuff (unilodge, anyone?) with everything she’s got, and with what seems to be endless amounts of tolerance for bureaucracy and energy for what has to be some of the most testing roles an engaged student can face. Did I mention that Raveena manages to study Arts/Law whilst simultaneously being a ass-kicking, name-taking feminist? Total feminist crush!

What are you working on the moment? 

RT: Right now, as the ACT NUS Women’s Officer, I’m working on the NUS Women’s Department’s “It’s Time to Demand Safety on Campus” campaign. This Campaign is all about addressing the issues around safety on campus for women and making sure that the Universities in the ACT take seriously the urgency for which these issues need to be tackled. More specifically, I’m also working with the UC Women’s Officer to build up a Women’s Department, a Collective and a functioning and appropriate Women’s Space on her campus.

What is something you’ve achieved that you’re really proud of?

RT: Over the past few years I’ve consistently lobbied ANU to take the safety of female students seriously, and to take measures to reform existing policies and attitudes regarding the issue. When I started, it felt as though there was no hope. But now, a few years later, I can be proud that I never gave up. As a result of my persistence, the pastoral care staff in the Colleges are better trained in Women’s issues and sexual assault response, Women’s Officers are considered a necessity and the University is willing to completely fund an ANUSA safety campaign. The University’s increased receptiveness is an achievement that I’m proud of.


What are your hopes for ANU this year or years to come? 

RT:I hope that ANU can become a leader not only in academic performance, but also in valuable social experiences that students can carry with them always. Ensuring the wellbeing and safety of the majority of their students is the first step, and I hope that 2012 is a particularly productive year in this regard.


What is a campaign that you really like at the moment? 

RT: I’ve really been into Men Can Stop Rape (http://www.mencanstoprape.org/) for a couple of years now. It’s a well-established campaign in the US and UK, and focuses on education and opening a dialogue around sexual assault, sexual harassment and domestic violence. Its focus is on teens and young adults, and is particularly effective because it’s perpetrator focused. Rather than the usual rhetoric that teaches girls and young women how not to get assaulted, it focuses on potential perpetrators and instead teaches them where the line is, what consent involves, and that assaulting women is unacceptable.

What do you do when you’re not being a badass feminist?

RT: Well, I tend to spend a lot of time procrastinating by watching hours of tv shows. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting through an entire season of friends in a night when you really should have been pumping out an assignment. Right now I’m really into Nikita (all about a kick-ass female spy), but some good old favourites include The West Wing, Seinfeld, Friends and Alias.

This post originally appeared on http://anuwomensdepartment.com/. For more great articles check them out!