It is a disturbing and regrettable truth that more than one woman dies every week in Australia as a result of domestic violence. ^
Our Director, Joplin Higgins, was recently invited to be guest speaker at a candle light vigil held as a tribute to women who had been killed in Australia this year by their spouse or former spouse.
Her powerful words are shared below:
I always have mixed feelings of pride and sadness at being asked to speak at an event such as this.
Pride in the fact that I believe no person, particularly no child or woman should live in fear and that an event such as this again strengthens the message of domestic violence in our community.
Even if one person leaves here this evening knowing more about domestic violence, it has been a successful evening. My sadness stems from the subject being a very tragic subject.
We are told that domestic violence has no class, colour or creed. It does, however, affect women and children significantly higher than it does men. Domestic violence is therefore a gender related offence. For hundreds and hundreds of years, women have struggled to be an equal in society which frankly does not treat us as such.
For years women in refuges and services have been advocating against domestic violence. Advocating for women’s rights to be safe in their own home.
I am often staggered by the fact that women advise me the domestic violence started when they were pregnant. That during pregnancy was the first time that they had been physically assaulted.
Tony Gaskins gives a great explanation of domestic violence. He said:
“Just because a person does not put hands on you, that does not mean they are not abusive. Abuse is controlled, blatant, disrespect and also hurtful words. Do not settle for emotional abuse thinking it’s okay because it is not physical abuse”.
Abuse does not usually start with a slap or a punch. It starts with the denigration, isolation, erosion of self-esteem.
A family lawyer today specifically deals with what Gaskins describes. Domestic violence is more than physical abuse.
It is defined as: Assault; Sexual assault; Stalking; Derogatory taunts; Damage of property; Denial of financial autonomy; Withholding financial support; Preventing family contact; Abuse to animals; and Threats.
It has been such an important step for the law of this land that domestic violence had a broad meaning. It is important that this issue is more than just a slap or a punch.
Abuse, and domestic violence, are months and years of verbal, emotional and financial abuse. Sometimes mutually exclusive from each other, sometimes they are a team or a pair, but none is more important than the other.
It is very important that the community understands this: that financial abuse is not less than physical abuse. Physical abuse is not less than an abuse to animals. They are all just as important as each other, because they are all domestic violence.
It is important for the victim of domestic violence abuse to be able to attend upon services and ensure that they are protected. It is important for the New South Wales Police to ensure that every police officer who has contact with victims understands the enormity of stress, desperation, and vulnerability the victim is experiencing.
It is important that police officers understand that their actions are extremely important, and if a victim is treated as a neurotic woman, it sets us back decades and decades.
The perpetrator does not calm down, the perpetrator does not stop.
Domestic violence is an element of their relationship with the victim, so no, it does not just stop. Just because the victim does not turn up at a police station battered and bloodied does not mean there was no domestic violence.
Just because there are no children involved does not mean that her violence is any less important, but most of all just because the victim has children and is separating from her spouse or partner, does not mean the allegation of domestic violence is a family law ploy.
Domestic violence is wrong, domestic violence is against the law and I urge the police that as the protectors of our community and the enforcers of the law within our community, I implore you, to listen to the victims of domestic violence.
Whilst there are many new faces in the media advocating on domestic violence, it is particularly important for the efforts of women in the domestic violence services to not be forgotten. Your tireless work has pushed this subject to the forefront.
To these women I salute your for your courage, determination and for always saying no to domestic violence.
To the victims who have left the stranglehold of the perpetrators and forged a new life free of violence, we thank you for your courage.
To the mothers with a teenaged daughter who have a feeling that the relationship is a little bit too full on, feels that the relationship is little off, or has noticed a little remark or an action. Do not stand there idly by or in silence, rise up, be the mouthpiece for your daughter, do not let domestic violence play any part in her life. This is your responsibility.
To the neighbours who hear the screams for help, please report the domestic violence, please find your voice to help the victim.
To the men who stand up against domestic violence. To the men that will not tolerate domestic violence, with your help and your voice we can change and provide a safe community and home for women and children, together we can stop this gender-biased violence.
To the 34* women that have lost their life this year from domestic violence, their death will not be in vain. We were unable to help you whilst you were living, but we will fight to the bitter end to ensure that your death was not in vain.
And to the perpetrators – you are on notice. It is over. The tables have turned, you no longer have the power – we do.
* Number as at May 28, 2015
^ source: whiteribbon.org.au