Friday, September 11, 2015

Do Something

It would be far too blithe to put the events of this week down to planetary misalignment, which I am prone to do when I - or the geopolitical landscape more generally - has had an unusually bad week.

I have ranted about this issue before. I don't think it's right to stop talking about this issue until there is some kind of solution, or we have at least gone a long way further towards ensuring the protection of vulnerable women and putting systems in place to support men so furious at the world that they think it's right to kill their partner or their child.

Last time I ranted, 1 woman per week was killed at the hands of her partner right here in Australia. Currently, this statistic stands at 2 women per week - the national average. In addition, 3 women per week are hospitalised with serious head injuries as a result of domestic violence.

Are you angry yet? No? I'll keep going.

This week in South East Queensland, 2 women were murdered at the hands of their partners, 1 woman was viciously attacked but blessedly survived, a child was murdered and her sister almost killed. Among the offenders? A mining executive and a former Bandidos bikie gang member. It takes all types.

This is what we read in the papers this week:
In a place usually packed with children, a man walks in, shoots a woman dead and turns the gun on himself.Another man armed with a machete allegedly rams his ex-partner's car and chases her along a suburban street. She survives.A young mother succumbs to head injuries allegedly caused by her estranged partner accused of running her car off the road and beating her with a metal object as she was trapped in the vehicle.
Several of the victims had reportedly reached out to police for help in the weeks and days prior to the attacks. News reports suggest many police are disinclined to intervene in domestic disputes. Not only that, the manner in which domestic violence incidents are reported (read: played down or simply ignored) is also a focus of  increasing attention.

Can we please stand up and do something now? Domestic violence is at epidemic levels. More women - and possibly children - will be murdered this month at the hands of their partners, and probably in their homes. Quite possibly the reason these incidents have attracted so much attention is that they occurred in public places, rather than at home. Generally, these women are beaten up within the walls of the family home, somehow making it easier for the incidents to be ignored.

Think it doesn't affect you? Think again.

What's the answer? I don't know. I'm not an expert. I think men need to be educated from day one on how to be respectful of women, and to accept women as equals. Discrimination and unfair treatment of women still exists in many facets of daily life. This needs to be recognised and addressed. There needs to be better awareness nation-wide of the signs of someone potentially being affected by domestic violence. In the extreme cases - hospitalisation, murder, suicide - I can't help but think there must have been signs that could have alerted others to the danger these women and children were in. Police need to be empowered to act. We need better support for battered women: shelters, safe refuges, and agencies - whether it be law enforcement or social services - where women can be treated respectfully and in confidence so they can get the help they need.

In addition, it is quite clear the men in these scenarios need help too.

Set amongst all this violence, it was R U OK day this week - a national day of action whereby we turn to our friend, family member, work colleague, person passing in the street and ask if they're ok in a bid to raise awareness for mental illness and depression. Headlines have been created as one of the nation's favourite football players pulls out of finals season citing mental illness. Again, it takes all types.

While I'm not suggesting all cases of domestic violence can be attributed to mental illness, there is clearly something not right in the head of a man who thinks it's ok to intimidate, bully, belittle or treat with violence a woman or child they claim to love. Support services need to exist for these men. Education and awareness raising is an important element of this, as is men telling other men that domestic violence or abuse of any kind is simply not on.

As the He For She campaign suggests - men are an essential part of the solution. It is a fact that 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs are men. It is also a fact that while 40% of the agricultural labour force globally is comprised of women, less than 20% of women in those areas own land. We need powerful men to not only be a part of the conversation, but also to be leaders in the charge toward gender equality and in creating safer homes, university campuses and workplaces for women.

Emma Watson's comments at the launch of the He For She campaign go for all of us. Something needs to be done. After all, it takes all types.

If you are suffering domestic violence, support is available from DV Connect via 1800 811 811 or the website. If you're in danger, call 000 in Australia.

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