Published: 28 July 2021

Family violence is a shadow pandemic plaguing society and we must take urgent action the issue,

WE HAVE much to do to address the very real challenge of gender-based violence and all manifestations of domestic abuse and family violence. Changes to our consent laws and progress on making nonfatal strangulation a standalone offence are just two areas I have been promoting and actively working to see implemented.

The UN Declaration states: “Violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that causes or could cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of harm or coercion, in public or in private life”.

Violence against women, the “shadow pandemic”, requires urgent action. In Australia, this crisis results in the murder of one woman a week (on average) by her current or former intimate partner.

Tragically, for every death resulting from family violence there are hundreds of thousands of women and children with a lived experience of emotional, physical, sexual and economic abuse and coercive control. Many women, children, parents and grandparents of the victims, the other family members and friends continue to be impacted by violence against women. The impact is significant and lifelong.

One in three women in Australia have experienced physical or sexual violence from someone they know. In Australia, almost 10 women a day are hospitalised for assault injuries perpetrated by a spouse or domestic partner. Women who experience partner violence during pregnancy are three times as likely to experience depression.

Family violence is a leading driver of homelessness for women – a situation that places them and their children at risk of poverty, disengagement with education and a lack of access to healthcare and employment and financial independence.

Based on 2015 analysis, in Australia, violence against women is costing $21.7bn each year. If we spent even half of that on primary prevention, imagine what we could achieve!

We must invest in training programs that focus on primary prevention, stopping abusive behaviours at the start. We must do more to educate all Tasmanians about this abhorrent crime, in all its manifestations. We must work together as a community to change attitudes and increase awareness empowering others to recognise signs of all forms of abuse and know how to respond, assist and support those living with abuse in ways that are safe.

We must ensure there is access to quality, evidence based, respectful relationships education, including consent, provided to all children and young people. We must assist parents to be well-equipped to teach and role-model respectful relationships to their children.

We must ensure there is access to safe shelter for women and families escaping family violence, in all its forms. We must ensure our police officers are well trained and alert to all manifestations of family violence and abuse. We must refrain from suggesting women in these relationships should just leave. It is rarely that simple and for many women deciding to leave and leaving, dramatically increases the risk of an escalation of violence and the risk of assault and murder.

We must look to, and learn from, other jurisdictions for measures that have assisted in dealing with this “shadow pandemic” and recognise the additional challenges women in isolated and rural Tasmania face when accessing assistance and support.

We need to be courageous to call and out sexual harassment in the workplace. Of great concern is the fact that in 2018, only 35 per cent of Australians who had witnessed workplace sexual harassment in the previous five years took action.

Courageous individuals who have been willing to speak up need and deserve our support. Women who do speak up need to be believed.

Many individuals and organisations work hard to support victims of violence against women. Much of this work is done with very limited resources. Disappointingly we also need to continue lobbying for adequate and secure long term funding to ensure these services can meet demand.

In order to support the staff of these organisations, we, the bystanders, family and friends, members of the community and work colleagues, have a vital role to play. This includes raising awareness and standing beside these women and organisations, supporting them and ensuring their messages are heard.

We must address underlying gender inequality and discrimination including the gender pay gap. In Australia the full-time gender pay gap is 14 per cent, with women earning on average $241.50 per week less than men.

We must proactively address the reality that women continue to be underrepresented in traditionally male-dominated industries in jobs that often offer more secure employment and are more highly-paid and the under-representation of women in managerial and leadership positions.

We must call out “whataboutery” – the practice we have all witnessed when someone responds to a challenging topic or criticism they make a similar criticism or comparison, thus undermining and diminishing the victims’ experience. This is easily recognised as the comment typically starts with the words “what about?”

For those of us who are able to stand up and actively advocate for victims, we must use our voice including to educate others.

We must do all we can to ensure no more families lose their mother, daughter, sister, relative or friend to the most abhorrent of crimes that is family violence.


The Mercury, Wednesday 28 July 2021

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