HAVE you ever asked a man if he fears being sexually assaulted?
If you did you might get a blank expression; an odd look; a furrowed brow. Ask a woman the same question and you might get a similar response but for an entirely different reason.
Simply, for half the population, the fear of being sexually assaulted is - in most cases - non-existent. For the other half, it is a constant reminder of the gender divide.
At home, do you lock the door if your partner is out? If you are a female: probably.
Recent events in Melbourne, with the desolate circumstances surrounding the murder of Jill Meagher, has only served to reinforce the worst evidence of the safety gulf between men and women.
The sense of empowerment, proved absolutely by the rally which followed Ms Meagher's death, highlighted both the depth of determination to change attitudes but also the desperation of the current predicament.
This is no Germaine Greer-style feminist rant. Society, ever-evolving as it is, has ingrained these realities. Sexual assault is a most extreme fear. Disturbing as this might seem, it remains only part of the picture. Physical violence in the home is so commonplace now that it heads the list of priorities for action from authorities.
According to figures released earlier this year, Ballarat has one of the worst rates, per capita, of domestic violence. On the face of these statistics, one would could rightfully conclude that our city has a serious problem. It does.
But the figures also demonstrate that more offences associated with domestic violence are being reported than ever before. In the past, the fear of retribution and a lack of understanding of what is right and what is wrong in a relationship, stopped victims from reporting domestic violence.
Just maybe, the figures provide hope that victims now feel they no longer need to put up with domestic violence, physical or verbal.
On Thursday, the City of Ballarat launched its Community Charter for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. Outgoing councillor Cheryl Bromfield, a strong advocate on the issue, sees the charter as a bookend of her time on council.
"If it changes the mindset of one person, then it's been worth it but hopefully it will change the minds of many," Cr Bromfi eld told The Courier.
It is a document which sets a definitive stance for what our city should, and does, stand for. Yet the charter is but words. It remains nothing without action - at the grassroots.
At a time when leadership on such an important issue is required, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott are embroiled in a media war over attitudes to women.
Hypocrisy abounds on all sides. What messages are our leaders sending about equality is society? That we must divide and conquer?
Later next month, communities across the nation will celebrate White Ribbon Day, where men and women are encouraged to pledge their support for prevention of violence against women.
It's about time that Ballarat's reputation as being a hotspot of domestic violence is turned into one of leadership. The impetus was provided by the charter launch on Thursday. The question is, what can you do?