Family Violence in our Community at This Time – A Statement From the WHSN

Right now – at this moment, in Victoria – there is a community hurting because women are being killed by those who say that they care for women.

Right now – at this moment, in Victoria – there is a community hurting because women are being killed by those who say that they care for women.

The pain faced by so many in the community of Ballarat is beyond compare, especially for the family and friends of Hannah McGuire, Rebecca Young and Samantha Murphy.

And as those of us who work to stop the perpetration of violence against women know, it is not just this community. It is all communities across Victoria. And it is not just now, but so often and for so long.

In Victoria, this year, it has also been Chaithanya ‘Swetha’ Madhagani  and Joanne Perry.[1]

The Victorian Women’s Health Services welcome the statements from the Premier of Victoria, Jacinta Allen that it is “just unacceptable that too many women are losing their lives at the hands of a violent [partner].”[2] We also welcome similar call from so many of our political leaders and advocates at this moment as we once again find ourselves confronting what is a regular news item in our papers, our TV’s and social media.

The Women’s Health Sector in Victoria extends their sympathy, our support and our solidarity with all those affected.

At this time, we are also thinking of those workers in the community, in the family violence and in the prevention sector who will be feeling this especially keenly.

We know from our experience, that they will be feeling a sense of despair, of deep sadness and, anger and frustration that comes from seeing the same cycle of violence and its causes continue to be perpetuated. It is a unique pain that comes from the professional knowledge that by the time the public talks about another death of a woman (by the hands of those that know her, say that they love her and care for her), it is far and awfully, too late.

We walk this journey with you – we hear you and we see you.

Amongst the regular headlines, and the regular reports we will once again see the questions of “how” and “why” and the tone of reprisal that ensues – sadly – at such times. The blame on the legal system, the community, the schooling system, the economy, and the inevitable and persistent blaming on the women involved (why did she run early in the morning, what did she wear) sometimes in public but often quietly.  We will also see the accusations that it was caused by alcohol, by drugs, by a lack of money, by video games, by certain types of music and other things too many to name.

This search for answers makes sense for a community and society that are still grappling with the reality that the perpetration of violence – often by men towards women – is at the end of the day, a result of power imbalance and inequity that lands on the shoulders, the hearts, the minds, the finances, the jobs, the health, the bodies and indeed the lives of women.

If you are not used to thinking about it, it is a hard concept to grasp and hold because it is an awful thing to realise. Those that work at the coal face of this reality, address this every day.

The truth is that it is all the systems and structures combine together to make this reality so – and have done so for so long. Our attitudes, norms and behaviours are encoded in our policies and practices across legal, health, education, training, welfare, building, planning, tourism, arts/culture, commercial, economic, transport and infrastructure systems and lead to the outcomes that, we once again find ourselves reading about.

The good news (and it is good news) is that we can stop it. To do so requires collective action across all of those systems and structures, consistent persistent evidence informed action across the long term.

It is often quiet work, collective work, that may not appear on the surface to be about preventing violence. It is often work that can be viewed as not “serious” or “adding value” and includes, helping women to access health services, ensuring that parks are accessible for all, translating public advice on our legal system into other languages, helping women build their understanding about finance, encouraging organisations to have equitable recruitment policies and flexible work, addressing the gender pay gap, providing opportunities for women to regularly meet and connect at a time of disaster, joining in with community information sessions, advocating for more flexible delivery of services, supporting community in public campaigns on respectful behaviours, helping teachers to implement programs on respecting others, engaging with faith based leaders on how to refer disclosures of family violence well and safely.

It is also work that is often done by a workforce mainly made up of women.

The truth is that every single one of these elements (and more) is part of the whole solution and without them all working together consistently and congruently over time. Such as that undertaken by the Women’s Health Services, and so many others across government, local councils and community organisation every day.

However, at this moment, none of this actually matters. What matters is that we give space, support and resources to a community in regional Victoria to heal. To give space to this community – without judgement – to grieve together and from this recover and strengthen their systems and structures to put down more ways of working and leaving that continues to reduce the risk of this happening again.

 

Further contact:

Tricia Currie Chair, Women’s Health Services Network

Phone: 0428365929 Email: tricia.currie@whlm.org.au

About Women’s Health Services Network

The Women’s Health Services Network has been a driving force progressing and shaping Victoria’s women’s health and equality space for four decades. While our services were established and funded independently of one another, collaboration has been a strong part of our history. Today, the 12 women’s health services funded through the state government’s Victorian Women’s Health Program collaborate under the title the ‘Victorian Women’s Health Services Network’. This enables us to work as a coordinated, mutually-reinforcing statewide network comprising both place-based and specialist services.

[1]  With thanks to the team at Counting Dead Women Australia for their work to keep a register of women killed by violence every year. https://www.facebook.com/p/Counting-Dead-Women-Australia-100063733051461/

[2] Jacinta Allan speaks out against gender-based violence (womensagenda.com.au)