Making domestic violence everyone’s business

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Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

[quote]“The experience of love in marriage and family is absolutely vital to the life of society.” – Pope Benedict XVI.[/quote]

Like his predecessor, Pope Francis has on many occasions reflected on the beauty, value and dire importance of family life in our society. He challenges us to examine our own family life: “I leave you with this question, for each one of you to respond to. In my home, do we yell, or do we speak with love and tenderness? This is a good way to recognise our love.”

And there’s no doubt a happy family is a place where children are nurtured and loved, where they can flourish and thrive and feel safe and secure. But sadly, for too many women and children (and some men), the home is not a safe haven but a place of violence, abuse and fear.

Domestic violence is a serious issue around the world and occurs in all social, economic, religious and cultural groups.

At this year’s Synod on the Family in Rome, domestic violence was one of the contemporary issues that bishops tackled. At their request, domestic violence expert, Christauria Welland drafted a 100-page booklet for the Philadelphia World Meeting of Families titled How Can We Help to End Violence in Catholic Families: A Guide for Clergy, Religious and Laity. And Bishop Odama of Gula, Uganda, recently told the Catholic News Agency that “violence done to women, or done to children or to anybody is a violence done to the family”.

Here in Australia, we’ve seen a huge campaign, spearheaded by 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, to make domestic violence “everyone’s business”.

As a result there’s been a number of initiatives announced by federal and state governments aimed at tackling this insidious crime.

And, thanks to the efforts of a brave 14-year old, whose mother committed suicide after years of abuse, NSW will become the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce lessons in classrooms that specifically deal with domestic violence.

From term one, 2016, all NSW high schools will include domestic violence education as part of the Years 7-10 Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) syllabus. The PDHPE syllabus will explicitly reference domestic violence, strengthening existing opportunities for students to learn about positive relationships and leading safe and healthy lives.

As the “parents of tomorrow”, our children will be taught how to identify, prevent and respond to domestic violence. The update to the syllabus will complement mandatory healthy relationship education in all NSW primary schools.

While the PDHPE curriculum will provide the content guidelines for the domestic violence education, teachers will use their own judgment about what and when it is appropriate to include specific details.

It’s also important that parents are aware that domestic violence will be taught at school so that they can also engage with their children about this important issue.

Parents wanting more information can find out about the new syllabus on the Board of Studies NSW website.

Anyone experiencing domestic and family violence can get help 24/7 by calling 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732. For crisis support contact Lifeline 13 11 14.