THE statistics are chilling that over 12 months, on average, one woman is killed every week by a current or former partner.
White Ribbon Australia’s statistics show that one three women in Australia have experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them.
Rosie Batty, became a household name for the most unthinkable reason, told her painful story at the Wagga Women’s Health Centre earlier in the year.
“I hadn’t ever planned to have children but once Luke was born it was the happiest time of my life,” she said.
Having ventured from the UK 30 years earlier for 12 months of backpacking, she loved Australia and found meaningful employment.
“I didn’t want to live with Luke’s dad so my son and I became a very happy little family unit.”
Rosie’s career grew and, for the first time in her adult life, she felt in control.
She maintained that Luke’s father, Greg, could be with his son and, on a few occasions, let him stay when Greg’s ‘chips were down’.
However, Greg always found fault with Rosie’s parenting of Luke and the relationship was often fraught with tension.
In her book “A Mother’s Story’ she recalled an incident where Greg had become enraged for no apparent reason….. “I kept my distance, scared of further provoking him. I ventured out into the kitchen, trying hard not to make any noise. Greg came bursting out of his room. He bowled up to me in the kitchen and stood over me. I recoiled, drawing myself away, terrified at the sight of this enormous man bearing down on me.”
“His face was red with rage, his eyes wild. He aimed six punches at my head – drawing his fist back at the last moment each time before it made contact. I fl inched in anticipation of a beating – whimpering in fear and confusion. With a groan of exasperation he turned on his heel and stormed out of the kitchen.”
After Greg physically assaulted Rosie, she took out an Intervention Order against him whereby he was not to come anywhere near her house.
However, this protection order did not include Luke. Rosie decided there would be no further co-parenting, a development that ‘sent Greg apoplectic’.
However, after a session with a counselor from Relationships Australia, Rosie realised she was a victim of family violence, including physical, emotional, verbal and psychological attacks from Greg.
She learned she was far from alone in being on the receiving end of abuse yet the topic was rarely discussed.
At first, Rosie felt that being a victim of domestic violence was shameful. Here she was, an educated, caring human being trying to live a good life and yet she had to go to a police station to seek protection.
“Our family had never needed police as we lived a quiet life and I was completely unprepared to enter what was to become a way of life for many years.”
During the ensuing years there were more violent episodes with more protection orders issued but, inconsistent record-keeping resulted in inconclusive and conflicting information regarding Rosie’s case.
And then, the unimaginable – “…and then I think how, in a matter of minutes, I have become one of those people; one of those horror stories. I’ve joined those ranks – of the mother whose three little boys were driven into a dam by her husband, of the mum whose little girl was thrown off the West Gate Bridge.”
“I am one-of-those-worst-things-that-ever-happened stories. That is my life now, it is my journey and there is nothing I can do to turn it back.”
Luke’s father, Greg, murdered the 12 year old in the cricket nets at Tyabb, Victoria, near where they lived.
Wagga Women’s Health Centre president Jan Roberts labelled domestic violence “family terrorism”.
“Terrorism is about making people terrified and that’s exactly what is happening in too many households in this city,” she said.
“Eight in 10 domestic violence victims are female. “In 2016 in Wagga, 150 cars were stolen yet 397 reported incidents of domestic violence but, which stories made the local news?”
The Wagga Women’s Health Centre supports women in the community experiencing domestic violence.
One way is by adding a bigger bathroom with a shower.
“We have women coming in to shower in safety as they cannot take their clothes off at home to enjoy this simple act we take for granted, as their partners will take advantage of them while naked,” Jan said.
“Some women can shower only once a week and this reality has to change.”
Jan invites everyone to become part of the solution in a vision to bring representatives from across and within the community to write a whole-of-Wagga-community strategic plan to eliminate domestic violence and roll out interventions.
- The Domestic Violence legal service number is 1800 810 784.
Centre works to improve services
THROUGH advocacy, community education and social action, the Wagga Women’s Health Centre is breaking down societal myths and stereotypes that exist in regards to issues affecting women, especially domestic violence and sexual assault.
Staff members are available on request to conduct talks on many aspects of women’s health, including adult survivors of child sexual assault and domestic violence.
The centre hosts and chairs the monthly meetings of the Wagga Wagga Local Domestic Violence Liaison Committee.
The aim of the interagency committee is to educate and raise awareness of domestic and family violence, and to reduce incidents of domestic and family violence within surrounding communities.
The centre is also part of a sub-committee of the Domestic Violence Liaison Committee, the “No More Silence about Domestic and Family Violence” Campaign.
The campaign was developed in 2003 and since then various resources have been developed.
In 2005 drink coasters were developed to be placed in hotels and clubs, in 2009 information cards were developed to be placed in hairdressing salons, in 2010 serviettes were developed to be placed in coffee shops, and in 2011 information cards were produced to be placed in doctor’s surgeries.
In 2012 the centre put information into outlying villages of Wagga Wagga, including Uranqunity, Mangoplah, Forest Hill, Tarcutta, Humula and Ladysmith, and also into the practices of allied health professionals.
In 2016, the centre took part in a major study of domestic violence in Wagga Wagga.
Each August, the centre takes part in the Day of Action against Sexual Assault.
In November and December, the centre is involved in the 16 Days of Activism to Stop Violence Against Women, culminating in White Ribbon Day on December 10.
It is also part of the sub-committee for Reclaim the Night, a global event that raises awareness about sexual violence directed towards women.
What is domestic violence?
ACCORDING to the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Counselling Service, 1800 RESPECT, domestic violence is a is a pattern of abusive behaviour in an intimate relationship or family relationship where one person assumes a position of power over another and causes fear.
If you are concerned for yourself or someone you know, there are supports and services available.
If you need information, referral to services, advice or counselling, you can contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
This telephone service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you are in immediate danger call 000 for emergency services.
Other help is available at: Link2Home 1800 152 152 Domestic Violence 24-Hour Help Line 1800 656 463 Rape & Domestic Violence Service 24-Hour Help Line 1800 424 017.