Australian women aren't safe at home. The domestic violence epidemic in this country is more pervasive than the drunken violence on our streets, but we aren't seeing sweeping law changes and outraged letters to editors. The abuse happening in Australian homes is shrouded in secrecy but the statistics – one woman a week dead, one hospitalised every three hours – make it impossible to ignore.
This year Daily Life, along with the Sydney Morning Herald, is committing to keeping the issue of domestic violence at the top of the public agenda. We're calling our campaign Shine a Light and we want to create more engagement and action on what the statistics bluntly show is the greatest threat to the physical safety and emotional well-being of Australian women.
Photo: Getty Images
The obstacle we all face in tackling domestic violence is stigma: the stigma attached to a victim recognising and admitting they are in an abusive relationship, and equally, for an outsider, the stigma of "poking your nose in" and asking someone if they are OK. But these two simple actions can and will save lives.
CEO of Domestic Violence NSW, Tracy Howe, believes Australians have never been more ready to take action. She says we've “had a gutful” of maintaining a polite silence and that the past 12 months has seen a significant shift in the way Australians think about domestic violence as the result of several high-profile cases – particularly that of Sydney-sider Lisa Harnum.
Howe says the Harnum case has helped the community to recognise and start talking about non-physical signs of abuse such as controlling behaviour and the use of technology to monitor and track a partner.
“Even if there is no immediate physical abuse, any form of emotional, mental, sexual or psychological abuse is never OK. There is never an excuse for this kind of behaviour.”
Reaching out for help or offering it to someone you think might be at risk isn't easy. It's often an act of great bravery that comes with serious risk. Victims of domestic violence need to feel that when they ask for help they won't receive judgment and shame. Responding appropriately starts with how we discuss the issue at home, report it in the media and the support we offer victims.
To create a significant shift in the way we treat domestic violence we not only need to offer unwavering support but to commit to being active bystanders when we witness abuse – whether it is in the street, over the neighbour's fence or if we see something in a friend's relationship that worries us.
We hope that by shining a light on the issue we can make a difference.
Australian women have the right to be safe in their homes. We intend to keep publishing stories that send this message until it is heard.
Join us on taking a stand against domestic violence by sharing this story on Facebook, tweeting #ShineALight or leaving a comment below.
Together, we can be the change we want to see.
For 24 hour help, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). Or see your state and territory helplines here.