This year, like many others, Australia is fighting a war that is even bigger than terrorism.
Australia is, according to our government, in an ongoing war with terrorism. So committed is Australia to fighting terror that we have spent $1 billion fighting it. Zaky Mallah appeared on the ABC’s Q&A program in 2015, somewhat controversially, having been previously jailed for two years for making death threats against ASIO workers. Man Haron Monis, the Lindt cafe gunman, brought out a whole army of police when he flew an IS flag and took a group of hostages. He also attracted the news media, who followed the seige hour by hour. The government and media use phrases like “lone wolf attack” or “home grown terrorism” to ensure we know how dangerous terrorism is.
Yet in a survey by Essential Research for Fair Agenda, 75 per cent of 1000 people polled thought that domestic violence was a more serious threat to Australian society than the threat of external or international terrorism.
The truth about domestic violence is far more shocking than terrorism. In 2017, on average one woman a week is killed by a current or former partner. While Zaky Mallah’s death threats were taken seriously enough for him to be jailed, the hundreds of death threats made against women each day aren’t taken seriously. Victoria Police data shows that in 2012-2013, nearly 5000 threats to kill were made against women, the vast majority of them by men to their spouses and partners. Yet very few of the men who made the threats have been jailed or charged with any offence. New statistics show that 45% of homicides that occurred in Queensland over the past eight years were due to domestic violence. Queensland also accounted for a quarter of the nation’s domestic violence deaths in 2016.
Kelly Thompson made 38 calls to the police in the lead up to her murder by her partner, Wayne Wood. Desperate for their help and protection, she was failed in the worst way. Perhaps if Wayne Wood had used an IS flag every time he punched her or threatened to kill her, his violence would have been taken more seriously.
In fact, Man Haron Monis made world headlines for his terrorist act, but his previous history of rape and sexual assault and alleged accessory to murder had brought little attention either from the media or from law enforcement. He was facing more than 40 charges, including 22 counts of aggravated sexual assault and 14 counts of indecent assault against seven women.
The facts of this case are clear: more families are being destroyed, more women are being killed and more children being traumatised by family violence than by terrorism. Yet while terrorism attracts $1 billion in funding, resources for combating family violence are being universally cut. The legal aid budget has been reduced for women seeking legal assistance to protect themselves and their children, and affordable housing that provides options for separating from violent partners is disappearing.
Rosie Batty, former Australian of the Year and domestic violence campaigner, suggested that we re-label domestic violence to family terrorism.
“Let’s put it in its context, this is terrorism in Australia,” she said.
“If we look at the money that we spend in terrorism overseas, for the slight risk that it poses to our society, it is disproportionate completely… Let’s start talking about family terrorism. Maybe then, with that context and that kind of language we will start to get a real sense of urgency.” Perhaps this is the only way we will be able to get the government to take domestic violence seriously.
What Can We Do About Family Terrorism?
Spotting domestic violence can be hard, listed below are some signs that may help you realise what’s happening behind closed doors. You may notice this happening to you or to a loved one:
- the partner always tends to assume the other is flirting
- seems to be controlling of finances
- embarrasses the partner in front of others
- suddenly, they are unable to visit regularly or they cancel last minute
- events they usually attend they are no longer present for
- criticises the other
- prevents the partner from social or religious activities.
Typically, the abuser will be seen as controlling, manipulative and completely unreasonable with his actions. However, some abuse can be hidden. If you think you may be witnessing someone getting abused, there are some things you can do:
- do not doubt the person who is telling you they are abused
- stress that it is not their fault
- be supportive and listen
- recommend them to support services and discuss whatever options may be available to them
- keep checking in with the person being abused
- follow their recommendations, do not do anything outside of their comfort zone.