Domestic Violence: A crisis for Australia

Domestic Violence: A crisis for Australia

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When Rosie Batty’s partner Greg, struck their son Luke in the head with a cricket bat before stabbing and killing him, it brought to light not only the abuse Rosie had suffered for years, but the plight of all those suffering at the hands of violent perpetrators.

This terrible crime was a final act of vengeance against Rosie, and one that shocked Australia. She faced the media soon after the tragic loss of her son.

Australia is one of the most developed countries in the world, yet our nation is facing a serious and terrifying epidemic. One third of Australian women will experience domestic violence by a male perpetrator in an intimate relationship at some point in their life. How did we let it get to this point?

These vulnerable women are hiding in the shadows in fear and suffering in silence at the hands of dominant men behind closed doors. This abuse has massive implications for the lives of these women, stripping them of their dignity, causing feelings of shame and embarrassment, and harming them physically and mentally.

Waleed Aly, a White Ribbon ambassador, gave an impassioned speech last year about domestic violence. He said, “Domestic violence causes 23% of the homelessness in this country. It costs police 20% of their time. It costs Australians $13.6 billion dollars annually. It costs kids their childhood. And by this time next week it will cost another woman in Australia her life.”

Intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and poor health in Australian women aged 15-44, and one woman is hospitalised every three hours because of this unacceptable violence. Two women die every week from domestic violence, a number that’s doubled in recent years. It’s utterly astonishing and incomprehensible, yet continues to happen at a rapidly increasing rate.

Nationwide, more and more women are turned away from emergency shelters and accommodation, either due to their closure or because they’re overfilled and bursting at the seams, which forces women to go back to the cruelty of life as a victim of a brutal, possessive abuser.

“…we must educate children and teenagers on what respectful, healthy relationships look like and put an emphasis on conflict resolution.”

It is increasingly becoming a rational fear of mine that one day I’ll be a victim; a statistic; one in three. The odds are stacked against me and all my female friends and family – what have we come to as a country if one in three girls will be abused?

I’m disgusted by what I see in the news every day, yet live with the knowledge that it could one day happen to me or to those I care about.

When Rosie addressed the media after her horrific ordeal, she stood strong. “I want to tell everybody that family violence happens to everybody. No matter how nice your house is,how intelligent you are. It can happen to anyone, and everyone. This has been an 11-year battle. You do the best you can. You’re a victim, and you’re helpless. An intervention order doesn’t stop anything like this from happening.”

These powerful words are a demonstration of how deeply rooted this issue is, and how great the need for change is. If we stay silent about the issue it’ll be accepted as part of a normal society, which is why Rosie’s words stand out so much.

Action must be taken, and soon lest the issue continues to fester in our communities.

Firstly, we must educate children and teenagers on what respectful, healthy relationships look like and put an emphasis on conflict resolution. There needs to be public condemnation of the appalling way some men treat their girlfriends, wives and children. Awareness must be raised on the range of behaviours that can be abusive, and the red flags that may signal an unhealthy relationship. Ideally, this could help women escape relationships before they become dangerous as well as aiding young men in understanding the importance of respecting women and not being abusive.

Secondly, we need to be prepared to respond to this domestic violence crisis. We need better funding so there can be more helplines women can call; safe, flexible accommodation they can go to; easier access to legal and health services; training for police so they’re better equipped to deal with these situations; and non-judgemental justice systems with a victim-centred approach.

Thirdly, the government needs to fund the ongoing support of women who are being abused or have been abused and develop more reliable intervention orders, possibly meaning more restrictions are placed on the perpetrators.

The mental health of these women must be prioritised so they can be aided in their recovery. In an effort to wage the war on domestic violence, we must have severe consequences for these perpetrators to keep women safe, set these men back on track with rehabilitation and deter other possible abusers.

Violence against women is never okay, and together we must ensure these women are receiving the respect and care they deserve.

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