Putting a stop to domestic violence

CEO Social Justice Blog

Most of us have been surprised and shocked at the increased reports of domestic violence which have been appearing in the media throughout the year.

The statistics are quite startling:

  • Every week in recent years a woman has been killed by a partner or former partner and the numbers this year are already exceeding this.
  • One in three women over 15 will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
  • One in 5 women will experience sexual abuse
  • Domestic violence contributes more to death, disability and ill health in women under 45 than any other factor.
  • Younger women and women living in regional or Indigenous communities are more vulnerable
  • 50% of violence occurs in the presence of children
  • 24% of homelessness is caused by domestic and family violence.

Domestic violence is an inherently gendered crime with the majority of perpetrators men and the victims women.  Men are more likely to be victims of violence by strangers and women more likely to be victims of violence by a person they know, particularly intimate partners. It’s the latter group we refer to as victims of domestic violence it is particularly disturbing because it usually occurs in what should be the security of one’s own home.

The causes are not clear.

  • Is it a perceived gender inequality? This would be particularly disappointing in Australia given the huge gains we have made in this area in recent decades?
  • Is violence still accepted as a way to resolve conflict?
  • Are the men experiencing more stress and anger or struggling with drug addiction, mental health or unemployment?
  • Are community / police attitudes to domestic violence too accepting of occasional acts of violence at home?
  • Or is it all of the above?

Whatever the causes, this violence must be stopped. I am delighted by today’s announcement by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Women Michaelia Cash of a $100m women’s safety package aimed at combating domestic violence. This is indeed a significant step in the right direction.

Measures I would like to see introduced as part of the package include:

At judicial level

  • All violence at home to be treated as a criminal offence by police regardless of the wishes of the victim
  • Police / court to have the power to remove the perpetrator from the family home.
  • Tracking devices to be an option in high risk situations so alarms can be raised before the perpetrator reaches the family home.

At the social welfare level

  • In situations when mothers / women must leave home, they should have access to safe and and secure accommodation which is available 24/7. Apparently the most likely time for violence to occur is weekend, during the evening. Too many services are closed at these times.
  • Women’s refuges should be linked to women’s housing services so that those who can’t return home can quickly re-establish themselves and their families. Too often victims of violence return to their former partner because they can’t find anywhere affordable to live. They are then somehow blamed for being part of the problem but women without resources cannot rebuild their lives without assistance.

At the community level:

  • A national campaign similar to quit smoking / drink driving to persuade Australians that domestic violence is not acceptable. The annual White Ribbon Day should be part of this.
  • A national education program for our schools. Apparently approximately one million children each year witness domestic and family violence. Some of these children believe violence is just part of family life.
  • There should be research into the reasons domestic violence is more common in regional areas.
  • There should be more consultation with Aboriginal communities about safety initiatives as there are cultural differences to consider.
  • Men who are subject to an apprehended domestic violence order should be referred to government funded ‘alternatives to violence’ programs.
  • Churches which sponsor peace and justice groups should add domestic and family violence to their agendas and churches which promote male headship in the family should ensure that this does not encourage family violence.

Violence against women and children is a human rights violation and this must be stopped.