Family violence isn’t nice to think about. It’s unpleasant to talk about and our tendency as a community has always been to look away when we are confronted by it.But just as momentum grows for some real change in the way we deal with perpetrators of family violence and support its victims, it’s all in danger of unravelling.
Witness today’s front page of the Courier Mail newspaper. Under the image of a white ribbon and in the context of the political crisis unfolding in Queensland involving MP Billy Gordon (and threatening the newly minted premiership of Annastacia Palascszuk) are the two words: Stop it!
It’s a clever reference to not only the deplorable use of the Billy Gordon affair as a political football, but also to our continued indifference as a community to the scourge of family violence.
Witness also the cover of this month’s Australian Women’s Weekly featuring Rosie Batty. Coveted magazine real-estate usually given over to famous faces but this month making a strong statement about the brave fight our new Australian of the Year has taken on.
At a meeting last week between Rosie Batty and the former Governor General, Quentin Bryce, Ms Bryce expressed her fear that the momentum Rosie has single-handedly created in this country is in danger of dissipating.
It’s a fear underscored by the report Ms Bryce recently tabled to the Queensland government. Titled “Not Now, Not Ever” – it’s the most comprehensive report ever compiled into family violence in Queensland. Among its more sobering findings was the fact that in 2013-14, more than 66,000 cases of domestic violence were reported to police – an average of 180 instances per day.
I know Rosie well. I have come to know her especially well these past six months as we have sat together and worked on her upcoming book. I know from personal experience that the articulate campaigner who appears on television and at speaking engagements represents only one side of her.
She’s also a mother grieving in private for her son – trying, in her way, to make sense of his cruel murder by attempting to change the system so that no other mother in Australia has to wake to the yawning emptiness she feels each day.
More than anything else, she is out there doing it all by herself. She has no husband, no partner, no immediate family here in Australia. This crusade she is on: she is largely on it alone. And it is hard.
That’s why looking away is no longer an option. It’s why every woman in Australia needs to stand up and be counted on the issue of domestic violence and show her support for Rosie.
Our bet is that Australian women really do care about the plight of their sisters. Our bet is that given the statistics (one-in-three Australian women either have already or will experience violence at the hands of a former or current partner) each one of us knows a victim. Our bet, overall, is that together we are strong enough to confront this scourge and drag it out of the shadows once and for all.