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Do our kids think domestic violence is normal?

WE DRESS our girls as princesses and our boys as soldiers.

It might seem harmless, but Domestic Violence Resource Service Mackay's Jude Marshall says it does little to promote a sense of equality between the genders in children.

The perspective might explain recent research that found one in four young people between 12-24 hold attitudes that put them at risk of perpetrating, excusing or tolerating violence against women.

"The very basic premise to domestic violence is the inequality between boys and girls, the sense of privilege," Ms Marshall said.

"Anything that tells society that a woman is less than a man will lead to a poor outcome around women's safety."

She said this could begin with boys being told they had to be brave, strong and "not run like a girl".

This could give the impression it was a boys' duty to protect a girl, which could be interpreted as his ownership over her.

From there it was a slippery slope to feelings of power and control, which in turn could result in domestic violence.

"I have a son who was a great rugby player, a great boy in every sense of the word, and he would push his sister's pram whenever he could grab it. So what?" Ms Marshall said.

"He was just a lad who liked dolls. It should be fine.

"I think men miss out on this, the nurturing stuff girls do with dolls. Boys and men they miss out badly if they don't get the opportunity to be nurturing.

"We have norms in society that tell us how to behave and what our role is in life."

But she said these one in four young people found to be tolerant of violence against women also reflected the prevalence of domestic violence in households' these kids were raised.

"One in three women is subjected to domestic violence of one sort or another," she said.

"If you bring a kid up from babyhood knowing he is as good as his sister and his sister is as good as he...it carries on like this.

"Unfortunately it doesn't always come like this. If there's already domestic violence in the family, the role models some will see won't be good ones."

She there was an assumption domestic violence was about people getting angry, but really it was about power and control.

"Domestic violence can be perpetrated by the king or the slave," she said.

"Kids have a wider family. I would reinforce, if you're worried about mum and dad, be part of the family. Reach out."

Topics:  domestic violence gender equality mackay


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