Imagine a world where services supporting women experiencing family violence were no longer required

Yes, I’m angry and I wish you were too.

I’m angry because women in this country are being hurt and killed by the men that they trust, by the men that they know, by the men that they love.

One woman dies every week at the hands of their current or former partner. This year a horrific 62 women have been killed by violence, according to Destroy The Joint. That’s SIXTY-TWO WOMEN – we’re already at eight more than last year. Mothers, daughters, friends, sisters, colleagues … violence against women and girls is the most widespread and devastating issue in our local communities today.

I’m the Director of Services at YWCA Australia – a national feminist organisation focused on creating a future where all women are safe and respected. Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls, I’m angry … but I can’t bottle up my emotions, so I’m putting pen to paper.

Can you imagine a world where our vision of gender equality has been achieved? That’s right … a world where our services supporting women experiencing family violence were no longer required … what would that look like?

A safe home for every woman and child. Can you picture it?

A local park where young women could jog without fear.

A community where police no longer received calls about family violence every eight minutes.

A workplace where sexist jokes ceased to exist and narrowly defined gender roles about who brings in the money were relics of the past.

A society where political decision-making powers were balanced between men and women and inclusive of non-binary Australians.

We need to get angry because this world can’t just be a pipe dream. We must have a strong deep-seated belief that Australia is capable of becoming a society where every woman can thrive.

We’re seeing the impact of violence on women, their children, young people, families and communities every day. Specialist services like our Domestic Family Violence Centre in Darwin and our Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service in Nowra run at capacity with demand for these services increasing year on year.

The truth is that violence against women is expensive. The combined health, administration and social welfare costs have been estimated to be $21.7 billion a year. Conservative projections suggest that if no further action is taken to prevent violence against women, costs will accumulate to $323.4 billion over a 30 year period. It is crystal clear, violence against women isn’t an issue we can press the snooze button on.

Changing gender norms, structures and practices in a society is no small task. We know language matters, and gender stereotypes in childhood ‘grow’ into adult attitudes – 21% of Australians surveyed believe women are “becoming too outspoken”, and one in four believe men make better political leaders.

With unprecedented awareness and media coverage, why aren’t we seeing the measurable reductions in family violence or bipartisan political urgency to want to address it?

If preventing violence by tackling gender equality is culturally and socially a long game what do we do in the meantime…?

The continuing reality is that the major challenge is to increase investment in, and support for, key services focusing on intervention and crisis support. Every case of family violence is different, but everyone deserves immediate and ongoing support.

Over the years I’ve accepted that in my lifetime I won’t see an Australia that is free from violence against women. However, I think of my grandchildren and the lives they will get to lead as I continue to work and stand beside women, children, young people, families and communities.

I won’t stop being angry and believing that we can transform our culture and societal norms, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children, LGBTIQ people and their families, women with a disability and women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. It’s up to all of us to create a world where children are less and less likely to experience or witness violence. I hope my grandchildren will never have to witness the horrors of violence but if they do I want to know that they’re supported by every facet of society and specialist workers utilising trauma informed practice and systems.

Globally, women’s organisations are recognised as a critical factor in driving policy development to prevent and respond to violence against women and their children. Please support the YWCA and other women’s organisations so we can keep pushing for change and transform the outlook of a generation.

Finally, get angry. Because the thing about anger is that together we can channel our sense of outrage, our sense of injustice, towards a movement that creates gender equality and a world free from violence against women.

This article was originally published on Women’s Agenda and is written by Shannon Wright, Director of Services at YWCA Australia.

YWCA Australia wishes to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we work, live and play and pay our respects to Elders past and present. We recognise First Nations people as the custodians of the lands, seas and skies, with more than 60,000 years of wisdom, connection and relationship in caring for Country.

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