AUSTRALIA DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OF EPIDEMIC PROPORTIONS
AUSTRALIA - DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS LEADING CONTRIBUTOR TO ILL HEALTH & EARLY DEATH FOR VICTORIA WOMEN 15-45
May 20, 2014 - What is the leading contributor to early death and ill health for Victorian women in the prime of their life? Car accidents, perhaps? Breast cancer? Melanoma? No. Here is something that might shock you out of suburban complacency. That leading contributor to death and long-term poor health among women aged 15 to 45 is violence in the home or within an intimate relationship.
Women are bashed and murdered by men whom they trusted and loved. In every suburb in every city. They are abused and intimidated and fear for their lives if they dare to report the crime. Many people fail even to recognise it as a crime. Generation after generation has suffered, but only recently has our community grasped the appalling cost in lives lost or dreadfully damaged.
Here are the facts. The overwhelming number of perpetrators of domestic violence are men. The overwhelming number of victims are women. Tragically, children are often direct targets of rage and frustration in the family environment and too many suffer long-term psychological damage by witnessing parental violence. The contexts of domestic violence differ from one instance to another, but perpetrators take their cues from skewed attitudes they have observed personally or perhaps seen elsewhere in our community about the respective roles of men and women. Their actions stem from wrong-headed presumptions that men are entitled to control, and that women and children are subordinates.
We know the causes and societal contexts of domestic violence but we tend to adopt a defeatist attitude. We must stop casting our eyes down and pretending it is not happening.
There is an element in all this that politicians too readily ignore. Funding. Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge has promised that an extra $4.5 million will be spent to protect women at high risk of domestic violence, but those who assist victims say another $16 million is needed just in this sub-sector alone.
Much more is needed to expand the capacity and geographical reach of programs aimed at changing the behaviour of men. And much more again is needed to fund Victoria's police, who are called to respond to hundreds of domestic violence incidents each week, and to fund the justice system, which is struggling to deal with tens of thousands of applications for family violence intervention orders each year. About one-third of such orders are breached.
Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews has promised that, if Labor wins government in November, he will set up a royal commission on family violence. That is a step forward and is welcomed by The Age, but millions of dollars should not be wasted raking over old ground. Instead, an inquiry should examine the deficiencies in the existing system and how it can be improved to world's best practice.
We need to understand how the best violence-prevention and behavioural-change programs work, and we need governments to fund them properly. We need better co-ordination between the disparate agencies that already deal with domestic violence issues, and we must ensure such services are readily available in Victoria's regional areas as well as in Melbourne.
Attitudes towards women are slowly changing, thanks in part to enlightened men who publicly denounce violence and champion equality in all forms. But as a community we do not do anywhere near enough to prevent family violence and we are not entirely competent dealing with its aftermath. Each of us needs to wake up to the dark secret that is destroying families in Australia. We need to become informed about what can and must be done. We need to be brave and to report violent and threatening behaviour so that we can try to protect the most vulnerable among us.
Governments boast about billions of dollars they might spend on new roads, railways or ports. If they could peel off $1 billion to repair broken families, it would surely make a mountain of difference to our world.