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The value of a woman’s life: Domestic Violence

Alisa Smith

Unless you’ve been in a cave this year with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears, I suspect you may have heard of the way in which Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran lost their lives. There was fierce debate on social media dividing friends, family and colleagues. Amongst these passionate opinions, I came across one that resonated above them all:

“We should be upset about the unjust deaths. All of them.”

This comment was significant, because at the same time the death sentences of Andrew and Myuran were being carried out, Canberra couple Daniela D’Addario and Josaia Vosikata were reported as missing. Daniela’s body was later found in the boot of a car in Bermagui and Josaia was arrested and charged with Daniela’s murder.

Daniella was the 32nd Australian woman to lose her life as a result of violence in 2015. Her murder happened on Australian soil, yet information about it was lost in the media frenzy surrounding two Australian men overseas who were in the midst of having their sentences carried out. All these deaths were unjust, but none of them should be considered more important than the other.

Last year, we were similarly bombarded via the Australian media regarding the untimely death of Daniel Christie who died after being punched in the head on a night out. This brought the death of Thomas Kelly (2012) back into focus along with stories of other grievous injuries that had resulted from coward punches. Alcohol fuelled violence in our cities was reported as front-page news, with 60 Minutes labelling the summer of 2014 as “the One Punch epidemic”.

As a result of public outrage, sentencing laws were developed to deter people from throwing that cowardly punch, which include a mandatory 10-year jail term along with strict changes to liquor licensing laws in Sydney. These changes were rightly considered vital because too many young people had lost their lives as a result of these cowardly punches. Consequently, crime rates have significantly dropped in Kings Cross because of these changes.

All of these changes are of course positive moves to make our country a safer one.

However, the critical fact here is that male victims of violence are not portrayed in the media as being at fault simply because of their gender. Or the fact they are outside their homes at night. They are considered completely and utterly victims of violence.

In contrast, we advise our young girls not to walk alone at night; we expect them to moderate their clothing and behaviour in order to be safe. But even if women follow all this well-meaning advice, they still remain in high danger of violence likely to occur within their home.

Freelance writer, Jane Gilmore, summed this hypocritical expectation brilliantly on her Facebook page with ‘Women if you want to be safe, stay at home. Except that you are more likely to be killed at home by someone claiming they love you, so don’t stay at home.’

Deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibesek, spoke to the ABC in April and advised that “for young women under the age of 45, the most likely cause of death or injury is domestic violence”; this means the biggest danger to women is not a car accident nor chronic disease, not even a coward punch – it is domestic violence.

This year alone has seen 36 Australian women violently murdered at the hands of a partner or family member.

How many women will die before legislation is changed to protect them and perpetrators of this violence will be held more accountable? Judging by the above two examples, the critical tipping point for media hysteria is the deaths of at least two men.

Why is this tolerance level different for women? Shouldn’t every life lost to violence evoke an equal level of outrage and call to action?

We were stunned by the responses to Martina Taliano’s experience of domestic violence shared recently. More than 110,000 people read it in one day, revealing just how vital it is to continue sharing these stories and giving a voice to its victims.

We want to bring you views of domestic and family violence victims that happen here in our city, in our suburbs, in our streets and in our homes. Over the course of the next few months and beyond, HerCanberra will be assisting those affected by domestic violence and related issues to share their stories with you. We hope that by learning about diverse experiences of domestic violence we will be empowered as a community to participate in the much-needed changes to laws, behaviour and culture.

For some the thought to just leave, is often the first offered to victims of domestic violence but it’s not always that easy as one Canberra woman shares in the next issue of our domestic violence awareness campaign. If you would like to share your story about domestic violence, please email [email protected] or submit your story anonymously below using the contact form. 

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

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Alisa Smith

Alisa Smith is a HR professional and has worked in the public service for over 14 years. She recently graduated from a Bachelor of Writing degree and believes in the power of stories to bridge societal and cultural divides. Alisa is passionate about sharing people’s wisdom and experiences through their stories.

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