MICHAEL USHER: We need to build a new wall to protect women from domestic violence

The Nightly
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MICHAEL USHER: It’s taking strong kids to make strong stands and change a pattern of far too long accepted bad and criminal behaviour
MICHAEL USHER: It’s taking strong kids to make strong stands and change a pattern of far too long accepted bad and criminal behaviour Credit: The Nightly

Sometimes problems can seem so overwhelmingly enormous that a solution seems impossible.

A quick search finds many suitable quotes that would help me expand here. —

Just a few include “There are no big problems, there are just a lot of little problems” and “We cannot solve our problems, with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

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I stopped looking at a lot of other “problem” quotes. It struck me that they’re lean on meaning and the sort of words an inadequate middle manager might pin to an office wall thinking that’s what team leadership is all about.

My age-old mantra to solving a problem was told to me by a veteran mentor, in my early days as a young reporter. He said “Don’t stress about building the wall or knocking it down. It’s sometimes too big. Focus on the brick. One brick at a time builds a wall or brings it down.”

It sounded wise to me at the time and made sense. So much so I’ve used it many times in the years since — sometimes to blank looks mind you, but mostly well received by people around me trying to overcome overwhelming tasks and tricky situations.

So, this past week I’ve used the “brick” analogy to start solving a problem in our house, with my children.

The problem is not in our house or with the children, I quickly add, but certainly could be and we are most definitely exposed to it.

The problem is consent. An issue I thought was being well canvassed in schools and discussed in detail.

And the kids aren’t confident it’s being properly addressed either.

But watching the weekend’s “enough is enough” rallies condemning violence on women, and demanding change from our politicians and judiciary, it was easy to be overwhelmed at how to stop the violence, stop the men perpetrating these crimes, handbrake the law to turn a hard corner of driving dangerously down the same victim-strewn highway.

No quick fix can cool the febrile atmosphere of outrage, sadly.

One big problem, that is made up of many, many smaller problems.

But away from the rallies, and the leaders stepping on political landmines as they trip into the debate, there seems to be only one way to start weeding out society’s endemic problem of violence against women.

It starts at home. It starts with children. It starts by protecting them and educating them, to make change, to be different and break a generational pattern of atrocious and deadly behaviour by men.

Social researchers no doubt will have well documented timelines of when and how men thought it was acceptable to kill a woman in a fit of rage, and I wouldn’t hope to digest that awful history for this piece.

But I can start on the solution with a very micro approach. And that we can all do, without trying to sound too preachy, by having simple and clear conversations at home. And this is also a self-serving conversation as much as the beginning of a social fix.

I’m terrified of the safety of my 16-year-old daughter when she’s out at night. It’s an anxious night when she’s out, not just at parties but also just with friends, on buses, anywhere really. She’s smart and aware, and resourceful. But to others she may be a target.

My 17 and 22-year-old sons are also of the same character, but do they really know the definition of “no”?

We’re lucky to have honest relationships. We’re all proud of each other, we use humour to get through the good and bad times, we talk.

They say I talk too much and I should save my words “for work” — but hard topics are discussed.

They fear “no” just isn’t clear — their words. And it’s my great concern as a parent. All the good conversation and advice and theory, can be very difficult in a real world, emotionally charged and most likely alcohol-fuelled, social setting.

It’s taking strong kids to make strong stands and change a pattern of far too long accepted bad and criminal behaviour.

But these are the bricks that build a new wall. One at a time. A new wall to protect women.

Small problems solved, to fix the bigger problem. It won’t be built quickly, but I’d bet these individual acts of reform and change, have as much impact as the lawmakers trying to change a system that has brutally failed women.

Michael Usher is a Seven News Presenter


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