“And perhaps most important, we need to keep saying to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted, you are not alone. You will never be alone. We have your back. I’ve got your back… I’ve often said in my travels around the world: You can judge a nation, and how successful it will be, based on how it treats its women and girls. Those nations that are successful, they’re successful in part because women and girls are valued. And I’m determined that, by that measure, the United States of America will be the global leader.”
– Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, 22 January 2014.
“My father used to say that the greatest abuse of all was the abuse of power, and the cardinal sin among the abuse of power avenues that can be taken is for a man to raise his hand to a woman. That’s the cardinal sin. There’s no justification in addition for us not intervening. Men have to step up to the bar here. Men have to take more responsibility. Men have to intervene. The measure of manhood is willingness to speak up and speak out, and begin to change the culture.”
– Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States of America, 22 January 2014.
Earlier this year, President Obama and Vice President Biden announced a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The formation of the task force was just one of the results of the tireless work of survivors, allies and activists. The initial announcement, and the resulting first task force report, demonstrates a huge step in addressing sexual assault on university campuses across the US. But more than that, it demonstrates something that is so noticeably absent in Australia when it comes to issues of violence against women – leadership and political will.
My previous post questioned the political silence surrounding domestic violence, and noted that the World Health Organization advocates for governments to recruit social, political, religious and other leaders to speak out against violence against women, a view shared by other leading bodies such as the European Union and the United Nations.
Those who are in positions of influence and authority, especially men, play a vital role in raising awareness about the issue, while challenging ideas that normalise the use of violence. Most importantly, these men – whether they are politicians, celebrities, or other notable figures, can use their influence to promote positive changes.
The Obama administration has harnessed not only the power of celebrity men in a great public service announcement campaign, 1 is 2 Many, but is also tackling the issue at a legislative level.
In short, this is what leadership looks like. Leadership that is sorely lacking when it comes to violence against women in Australia.
A recent spike in domestic and family violence related deaths continues to see silence from the leader of our nation, Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Silence that, to me, suggests that the lives of women and children hold little value to Prime Minister Abbott.
Domestic Violence NSW has started an online petition urging the Prime Minister to take the urgent political action that is required to end the unnecessary domestic violence deaths that take the lives of over 50 women every year and to recognise that domestic and family violence is a national emergency. I ask that everyone who reads this signs and shares this petition with as many others as possible. It’s time that we forced our “leader” to step up and lead.
Today, May 7th, is National Domestic Violence Remembrance Day. A day to remember those who have died, and the ones left behind, due to domestic and family violence.
A day to remember those that we ignored, that we failed.
Now, it’s inevitable that someone out there will respond saying that we didn’t simply ignore these deaths. And on that, I call bullshit. Sure, we dedicated several column inches in daily newspapers, and segments on the nightly news to those that lost their lives. And then, when all the hand-wringing and discussions on how awful it was, we forgot. We moved on with our lives, without taking any action, until news of the next death broke. Then it became more collective hand-wringing, more wondering about why it had happened once more. And again, we moved on.
From each of these deaths that were reported in the news, there will be another that the media didn’t pick up on. For each of these deaths, countless more women and children will still be living in terror and danger. For each of these deaths that were reported from the beginning of this year, we made our comments about how awful it was, and we moved on:
– Therese Brown, 52 years old. Died 3 January 2014.
– Victoria Comrie Cullen, 39 years old. Died 22 January 2014.
– Luke Batty, 11 years old. Died 12 February 2014.
– Margaret Tannous, 47 years old. Died 17 February 2014.
– Baby girl (name unknown), 11 months old. Died 2 April 2014.
– Fiona Warzywoda, 33 years old. Died 16 April 2014.
– Savannah, 4 years old, and Indianna, 3 years old. Died 20 April 2014.
– Woman (name unknown), 47 years old. Died 30 April 2014.
And these are just the tip of the iceberg, the deaths that have occurred and been reported on in the last five months.
Domestic and family violence is a national emergency. And a national disgrace. We need to stop the silence, the quick mention on the daily news, the forgetting. We need real, tangible action. We need political will. And for that, we need a leader.
Take action and demand leadership on domestic and family violence. Contact Prime Minister Abbott and your local MP here.
If you, or someone you know, is experience domestic violence you can get 24/7 help by contacting 1800Respect via their website or on 1800 737 732.