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Thursday
Jul052012

Mythbuster sticker project

De-Myth-Defied is an innovative project from South Australia that aims to break down the mythology surrounding domestic/family violence and challenges the silence, shame and stigma that prevents individuals and communities talking about it.

The project was a response to the findings of the Federal Government's 2009 “National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women” survey. Some of the key findings in the survey were that:

  • 22% believed that Domestic Violence was perpetrated equally by both men and women
  • 18-22% believed that Domestic Violence was excusable if it resulted from getting so angry that the person temporarily lost control or they truly regretted what they had done
  • And staggeringly half of the respondents to the survey believed that women could easily leave a violent relationship.

For more information about the project and to see all the mythbusting stickers go to:

http://saynotoviolence.org/join-say-no/de-myth-defied-myth-buster-sticker-project-challenging-community-atttitudes-and-myths-ab

We have been given permission by the project organisers to post a speech made by one of the lesbian participants in the project at its launch in February 2012. It's an interesting exploration of a range of issues relating to lesbian domestic/family violence, gives insight into the journey of the project, the widespread community impacts and is well worth a read.

Scroll down to the bottom to see the sticker associated with Stacey's story.

 

Strengthening Communities - Myth Buster Sticker Project – Community Participant

Stacey, a community woman, a lesbian and a participant in the Myth Buster Sticker Project, among other things, spoke at the De-Myth-Defied launch on 22nd February.  Her experience as a participant is shared below…

I'm here as a representative of all the community members involved in the consultation process of the de-myth-defied project.  Of course I can only speak of my personal experience in one of the consultation groups.  I was glad to see something was being done locally about domestic violence. I am a woman, a sister, an aunty, a lesbian, a feminist and a community artist. I believe in grass roots activism – we need to be involved in community activities in areas that concern us – we need to actively make the community one we want to be part of, one that is a safe and respectful place for all.

I was part of a lesbian focus group, the Southern Women's Slade group that Sharon Stewart came to. She spoke about the project and started a discussion about what we thought the stickers and posters should say and how it should be said.

The discussions raised a lot of stories in the group. We talked about our personal stories and experiences, and we got to know more of each other’s lives. The discussion was broad and wide ranging about violence and abuse, about society and women's roles in it, about the visibility – or not - of women's issues and the response of authorities. We covered what types of behaviour constitute abuse - many of us, if not all of us, had been affected by, or knew someone close who had been affected by physical violence. Less well acknowledged is the impact of emotional, financial, social and verbal abuse that leave no marks but can have an even more devastating effect.

Often the violence our group members experienced was in childhood families or in relationships before we were lesbians. While most violence is perpetrated by men against women there is, unfortunately, sometimes violence in all types of relationships, including lesbian relationships.  As with many minority groups there are complexities regarding how to deal with it. I was pleased that lesbians, as an often invisible part of the community, were being included and being listened to and their concerns made visible.

Lateral violence is a term I heard recently, to refer to learned or post-traumatic behaviours where those who have suffered violence then go on to use violence as their only known way of releasing anger. Women in our society are disproportionately traumatised, abused and disadvantaged and lesbians especially so. Sometimes people know no other way to cope than to behave the way they have been treated.

The Slade women brainstormed approaches to a poster and talked about if and how violence was different in lesbian relationships. I talked to friends outside Slade to get their input. We had talked a lot but as yet had no poster, and so I went back to Sharon, being a community  artist, and suggested an art day with lots of materials spread around, several Slade women came and turned the discussions into posters, and we made many!

It seemed important to us that stickers and posters in public places did not suggest that lesbian relationships are inherently violent - there is already enough homophobia and internalized homophobia out there! Our approach was to have a positive focus. We believe lesbians are the most likely relationships to be respectful and nurturing, but we also want lesbian women to have their relationships acknowledged, and for them to look into the quality of their relationships.

We all know that abuse is never OK, but do women fully understand what constitutes abuse? Do they  recognise the range of behaviours that make up relationship violence, and do they feel empowered to acknowledge and confront it? If you have become used to being treated, or treating others, in a derogatory way you may feel that it is normal, that you, or they, deserve it or that every one behaves like that.

We wanted the posters to be educational and empowering and prompt women to reflect on their behaviour and the quality of their relationships. We talked about what is a good  relationship, and came up with a number of quotes. We made many posters using these quotes,

A good relationship is .......respectful, ..........

Because I thought this was such an important project I took it to a national conference of lesbians and talked about the de-myth-defied project there. Some women were keen to be involved and volunteered to have their photos taken as part of the poster making process, showing good lesbian relationships. These may yet go on to have a life of their own.

Domestic or relationship violence is hard to talk about, hard to admit it happens and if it is happening, hard to know what to do about it.

Sometimes it is hard to call bad behaviour abuse, we make excuses – about a bad mood, a bad experience, a bad day – but I would say that if you are scared of your partners behaviour, scared to go home, or scared to raise any issue for discussion, scared to make decisions for yourself, or you have to tiptoe around and pick carefully what to say and do when to say and do it, it is abuse. If your partner feels scared of you in any situation it is abusing.  It may not be physical, it is still abuse – whether its social control, financial control or emotional manipulation.

I have been told horrific stories and been personally thanked by one survivor for being part of the project.  It touched me to see her anguish as she remembered her ordeal. She apologised to me for not be able to be involved, but she was too scared to be associated with it, in case of reprisal.

I have always known that abuse is not OK, but being part of the De-Myth-defied project has given me insights into the insidiously subtle, and not so subtle, hidden types of abuse and changed my theoretical understanding of  domestic violence into one more personal. Any action that raises awareness and challenges domestic violence changes lives.                            

Stacey M                                     

February 2012

 

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References (2)

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    MythBuster Project is working with the high aims to discuss the most important issue of our society that is the domestic and family violence. It must be stopped at the initial level and solutions must be found for it. I really adore that the writer has much knowledge to discuss this ...

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