Sometimes it feels like the fight against domestic violence is like swimming upstream with limbs tied. With statistics still so sobering, are we getting anywhere?
Our Watch is an Australian group that has been established to “drive nationwide change in the culture, behaviours and power imbalances that lead to violence against women and their children.” They have collated key facts from different sources regarding the fight against domestic violence. All are confronting and here are just the first five statistics :
- On average, at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia.
- One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence, since the age of 15.
- One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence.
- One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.
- One in four Australian women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Sometimes it feels like our culture is not changing. Domestic violence is a worldwide issue that is gaining awareness, but action often seems to be much slower. A Morrocan TV channel was recently petitioned by Morocco’s Haute Autorité de la Communication Audiovisuelle after showing a tutorial – ‘Camouflage traces of violence’ – which taught women how to hide signs of domestic violence using make-up. This was aired just two days before International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Although the news channel apologised for their “editorial error of judgement in view of the sensitivity and the gravity of the subject of violence against women,” and removed the offending video, it shows how our society has been in the practice of normalising violence against women. It often feels like that in the fight against domestic violence, we take two steps forward and one step back.
Rising Awareness A Good Thing In The Fight Against Domestic Violence
When Penrith crime manager, detective Chief Inspector Grant Healey told a panel that for every one break-and-enter incident, Penrith police attend five family and domestic violence incidents, people were shocked. He said, “They are terrible numbers,” but this is part of the harsh reality of family and domestic violence in this area. Although these figures are confronting, Chief Inspector Healey says that there are demographic factors at play, but also people are talking more openly about the problem. This is change – good change. In the fight against domestic violence, talking openly about the problem is a great first step toward making positive change. It’s no longer a issue on which victims need to remain silent.
Contributors to the panel included police, domestic violence workers and health practitioners. The forum was also told that in the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District 30 per cent of domestic violence-related assault incidents are alcohol-related, Aboriginal woman are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised for a DV assault, and children exposed to family violence are at greater risk of self-harm and suicide.
The police and health practitioners are on the front-line of the fight against domestic violence and they are working hard to raise awareness in the community about identifying and calling people out on family violence. Penrith local area commander Detective Superintendent Brett McFadden said each business day, the first item on the agenda is domestic violence.“We take the view it’s a command responsibility,” he said. “We’re getting better at identifying indicators.” Domestic violence liaison officer, Senior Constable Alana Woodbury said she helps “put measures in place to prevent further escalation” of violence. Det-Supt McFadden urged victims and witnesses to “stand up, speak out, and act” against perpetrators.
In New Zealand, some alarms were installed in the homes of domestic violence victims. These special alarms were installed as part of a government initiative, the National Home Safety Service, aimed at protecting those who are most vulnerable. Police were alerted 25 times last year that perpetrators of domestic violence were trying to break into former partner’s homes. As part of this service, homes are made more secure which helps victims feel more safe and supplies them with the extra safety measures that they need such as replacing locks and strengthening doors and windows. In the fight against domestic violence, helping victims to feel safe in their own homes is very important.
Everyday People Can Help
And it’s not just the government, police and trained domestic violence workers that can help to bring about change in the fight against domestic violence. From 2017, in Illinois, the law will require all licensed beauty professionals to undergo training on domestic violence and sexual assault. This means that hairdressers in Illinois will learn how to recognize signs of domestic violence in their clients and be equipped to refer them to support services. It is thought to be the first legislation of its kind in the United States.
The law specifies that they can’t be held civilly or criminally liable “for acting in good faith or failing to act on information obtained during the course of employment.” Beauty professionals in Illinois will not be expected to offer counselling and are not obligated to report abuse. Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says “The more the public recognizes what domestic violence and sexual assault looks like, the more we are all likely to be able to say, ‘This is not your fault, there is help you can get, you don’t have to live like this,” she said. “It’s a form of prevention.” Kristie Paskvan, founder of Chicago Says No More (a DV awareness and resource group) says, “The training is not so that someone intervenes, or tells their client what to do ― it’s so they can learn to listen,” she said. “This can save lives.”
Domestic violence is something that we can all help with. We just need to “stand up, speak out and act”.
At Divorce Lawyers Brisbane we want to help you. If you have experienced physical and sexual abuse, emotional and/or verbal abuse or threatening behaviour we can assist you in making an urgent Application for a Protection Order. Our family lawyers offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation. Please contact us today. If it is an emergency, please contact the police on 000.