Violence Against Women a “National Disgrace”

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Sad lady in a gloomy blue room

It was less than six months ago that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull conceded violence against women is a “national disgrace”. Announcing $100 million in federal funding to help address the problem, he called for a “cultural shift” in men’s attitudes towards women, blaming gender inequality for the intolerably high number of women dying from violence inflicted by their partners.

“Let me say this to you: disrespecting women does not always result in violence against
women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women,” Mr Turnbull said.

The latest report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on recorded crime confirms that men are around four times more likely to be responsible for incidents of family violence.

Data from five states and territories—New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory—shows that between July 2014 and June 2015 police recorded family violence offences for over 35,000 Australians.

These family violence-related offences include homicide, sexual assault, abduction and harassment, property damage, and intent to cause injury.

This is only the second time the ABS has released statistics relating to family and domestic violence using augmented recorded crime data. The Bureau says it is conducting further work into the rules that guide national recording and counting of family violence-related offences which makes it difficult to draw comparisons between the states and territories, but there are some disturbing figures indicating there are significant differences.

In the ACT for example, men are more than eight times more likely to be responsible for acts of family violence than women. Elsewhere in Australia, the consistently overwhelming gender gap is less pronounced, with men four times more likely to be recorded as a family violence offender.

Most concerning are the figures for the NT, where 2,446 people were recorded as family violence offenders. To put this in perspective, this figure equates to 1185 offenders per 100,000 people, compared to NSW where the total number of family violence offenders—19,000—represented 302 offenders per 100,000 people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders represented 89 per cent of the family violence offenders recorded in the NT.

Women from remote communities in the NT are particularly vulnerable. North Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Service (NAAFLS) solicitor Fernanda Dahlstrom told the ABC that strict Domestic Violence Orders (DVO) with no-contact conditions were uncommon because of the small size of most remote communities and the reality that victims often continue to live with their attacker due to housing shortages.

After applying for a DVO, a woman’s last legal resort is to ask police to press charges, however Ms Dahlstrom said there were many pressures on women that stopped them doing this.

“A lot of women are in a position of not having any earning capacity, not having any work history, not having fluent English, and not having connections to anybody outside their communities,” she said.

Ms Dahlstrom said that in these circumstances it was not difficult to understand why women either stay in violent relationships or go back to them after DVOs expire or housing applications are unsuccessful.

“There’s no realistic way for them to escape.”

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