The UN’s “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” finished just two days ago, on December 10th. The “16 Days” campaign is designed to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
In the TWO DAYS since December 10th, we’ve learned a number of things about violence against women in Australia.
Thanks to the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, we’ve learned that the federal government won’t support a national standard of 10 days of paid domestic violence leave because they “just believe it’s another cost on our economy that will have an impact on our international competitiveness”.
Sorry, women whose partners abuse them. Your life is not as important as the government’s bottom line.
Today, we learned that, like other forces around the nation, sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse is widespread in the South Australian Police Force. More than a third of SA Police officers and other staff have endured sexual harassment that ranged from sexualised and suggestive comments to rape at the hands of other officers and staff. Reports of officers harassing or “ranking” the attractiveness of victims or witnesses also emerged. Those who complained about the abuse and sexism were further victimised, labelled “bitches” and “troublemakers”.
If you’re a policewoman who has been subjected to such behaviour, who do you report to in this “boys club” where such behaviour has been labelled “acceptable and normalised”? If you’re a civilian woman, how can you trust that the police will believe you, will take you seriously, won’t target you for further abuse?
And – as the icing on the violence against women cake – we learned the cost-cutting “triage system” put in place at 1800 Respect, the national domestic violence and sexual assault helpline, has been riddled with problems and may have re-traumatised those seeking assistance.
So often we hear questions like “why doesn’t she leave?”, “why didn’t she report to the police?” or “why didn’t she seek help?”. This is why.
How do you leave when you can’t afford time off work?
Why would you report to the police, knowing that the person you’re speaking to might be a perpetrator or might decide if your report is “worthy” based on your appearance?
How can you seek help when the national helpline has been restructured so poorly that you might not be able to speak to a person who has actual counselling qualifications?
We pretend that we’ve come so far in addressing violence against women in Australia. Look what we’ve done! Rosie Batty was the Australian of the Year! Our politicians attend White Ribbon Day breakfasts! We hear about violence against women on the news!
It’s bullshit. It’s bullshit and nothing more.
We haven’t come far. Hell, we’ve barely made any progress at all. For all of their lip service and ribbon-wearing, those who are supposed to support survivors of violence have failed them miserably.
We don’t need more awareness raising. We know all of the statistics about violence against women in Australia. They’ve been well established and spoken about over and over again. We don’t need more lip service or patronising ribbon-wearing bullshit.
If you have been impacted by domestic or sexual violence, you can still call 1800 Respect. Ask to speak to a trauma-informed counsellor.
If you don’t need help yourself, consider donating to an organisation that directly helps those that do (e.g. not White Ribbon).
Write to your member of parliament. Demand better.
We need real services. We need funding. We need cultural change.
But first we have to admit that Australia has a huge problem when it comes to violence against women.
We have to admit that we haven’t made any real progress, despite how things might appear.
We have to admit that we have a hell of a long way to go.