Be alert, and very alarmed, about our boys' role models


I am very fortunate to be the mother of twins, a boy and girl who attend a co-educational school in Sydney. I received a phone call from the school on Wednesday to say there had been an incident while they were at camp.

Murdered in an act of terror called domestic violence ... Hannah Clarke with children Laianah, 4, Aaliyah, 6, and Trey, 3.

Murdered in an act of terror called domestic violence ... Hannah Clarke with children Laianah, 4, Aaliyah, 6, and Trey, 3.

A few boys had told my son they thought his sister was cute and wanted to ask her out. These are 12-year-olds, mind you. Another boy later approached my son and said words to the effect: "I like your sister and I’m going to rape her." My son's horror to hear these words – the rage and hurt he felt – were enormous.

I commend the school for the way it promptly handled the situation. After discussions with  teachers, it emerged the boy who made the remark did not know the meaning or connotation of  the word "rape". Who knows where he had heard it? Video games, social media, TV? Perhaps he overheard conversations at home.

My children are so lucky to be at a school that cares and doesn’t take these situations lightly. It so happens, however, that their terrible experience coincided with the entire nation stopping to ask hard questions about the way some men treat women – and, with it, how we are influencing our boys to regard and treat girls. It happened in the same week that the federal Parliament stopped to pay tribute to Hannah Clarke and her three children, so horrifically murdered in Brisbane in an act of domestic violence.

We are becoming increasingly aware of a grim statistic: about one woman is killed each week in Australia by an intimate partner or ex-partner. Now women and men across the nation want answers. Why? More importantly, what are we doing about it?

If terrorism claimed the life of one Australian every week, the government would be throwing vast amounts of funding at securing the nation and its borders. Yet this terror called domestic violence exists in every city, suburb and town. As a society, we need indeed to be alert and very alarmed.

We must work together to guide our children to respect each other. We must teach our sons to call out disrespectful behaviour towards girls.

At our school, support for the wellbeing and safety of my children has been paramount and I am proud of the maturity and resilience they have shown. Of equal importance to our family and the school is the counselling, nurturing and wellbeing of the child who made the comment.

But more broadly, our government must be at the front and centre of this discussion and of change.  Pauline Hanson, unquestionably, should not be involved as deputy chairman for the inquiry into the family law system, given her appalling remarks following the Brisbane atrocity – that "a lot of people are driven to this, to do these acts for one reason or another".

We need increased funding for programs to help women and children leave violent men, more  refuges, more domestic violence officers in state and territory police forces, stricter enforcement of violence orders, education and anger-management courses for men, and support for both men and women when relationships break down.

And little eyes watch and little ears are listening to how male politicians behave. If our male political leaders cannot treat women with respect, how will our boys and young men learn to act towards women?

Amanda Wilson is a proud mother, small business owner and currently a freelancer in sales and relationship management.