It's Time To Stop The Slaughter Of Women In Our Neighbourhoods

Why isn't violence against women treated like the national emergency it is?

At the beginning of this month, experts from across the country came together in Adelaide for the COAG National Summit to Reducing Violence Against Women and their Children.

We did so against a backdrop of violence and tragedy with horrific murders in WA and elsewhere.

But who would know that, by the end of this month, we would see a woman killed nearly every two days.

Like many Australians, I am sick of it. I am sickened by the statistics, the stigma, and the cost in every sense -- human and economic.

Australians are reeling from this death toll.

We cannot go on like this: in the face of unspeakable acts in which survivors are forever maimed physically and mentally, with shattered neighbours and children witnesses appalling acts.

Victims Kristie Powell, Toyah Cordingley, Jacqueline Lynn Francis, Nicole Cartwright. (Images: Facebook)

It is time to stop this slaughter in our neighborhoods.

Across Australia, police get called to one domestic violence matter every two minutes: that’s 720 times a day.

One in three women over the age of 15 has experienced physical violence in her lifetime and, every week, on average, a woman is killed.

In the past 22 days, 11 women have been killed.

Yet, this is not treated like the national emergency it is.

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I first called this a national emergency speaking at the National Press Club in 2013 with former Chief Commissioner of the Victorian Police, Ken Lay.

Ken asked us to imagine a scenario in which an Australian was murdered every week at a train station.

He said imagine “that each week, someone's brother or sister; mother or father is violently killed getting on or off a train. Now picture the public response. It would be a front-page news story in each of our capital cities."

Kevin was right. We have a muted, different response to gendered violence.

Writer Clementine Ford tweeted if this was about strawberries or farmers -- both sectors which have experienced crises in recent times -- our leaders would be acting.

This is not facetious. We have had emergency responses to both these issues.

Yesterday, men and women took to social media and other fora to express despair and, for so many, heartrending pain.

People want to help and they are crying out for leadership.

The COAG Summit was attended by all our nation’s Women’s Safety Ministers, as well as the Minister for Social Security Paul Fletcher. But, without a Prime Minister in the room, or posse of First Ministers, spotlight was off the issue of violence against women.

It is now time for political intervention at the highest level.

The National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children so far has produced important initiatives and an unprecedented collaborative approach to the issues, and ensured violence against women and children is on a national radar.

But we need leadership.

We need our nation’s leaders to step up. Proclaim this a national emergency. Invoke special powers. Release additional funds. Hold emergency debates in parliament. Send messages to our nation about why this is appalling and won’t be tolerated any longer. Pledge to women, and their families, that keeping them free from violence will be a national priority.

Women and children are dying violently, often at the hands of people who have professed to love them.

This is crunch time.

The sector is here ready to do what it always has: work day in and out to keep women and children safe, but we can’t do it anymore without greater political support and resources.

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The ‘Stop it at the Start’ campaign advertisements are good. They make clear the link between those small acts and practices and disrespect.

The way to prevent men’s violence against women and children is to tackle the attitudes and behaviours that give rise to this violence in the first place. This is primary prevention.

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We need immediate funds for intervention and crisis support. Just as we need long-term investment in primary prevention, so we don’t have these same debates and tragedies for years to come.

We need to re-imagine our society as one in which respect is standard. Where women and men, girls and boys have equal rights and roles.

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The international research makes it absolutely clear: violence against women is more likely to occur where gender inequality is ingrained in social and cultural norms, structures and practices.

Our Watch is here to encourage action and leadership, big and small, political and community-based, because violence against women and children is preventable.

In so many respects, the power of men to inflict pain on those who should be closest to them remains undiminished, and so must Our Watch.

Feature Image: Victims Kristie Powell, Toyah Cordingley, Jacqueline Lynn Francis, Nicole Cartwright