I want to have a chat about priorities.
While most Australians have been on holiday over summer, I’ve been working. I worked Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day, the whole Megillah.
So for the last four weeks I’ve been consuming more news than most people would recommend. And over that time I’ve noticed something about what we pay attention to and how we respond.
The most covered story (other than how Australia is very good at cricket again) has been the rise of drunken violence and in particular life-altering and fatal injuries caused by single-punch assaults.
Everyone’s talking about it. Every news bulletin is doing a feature story on it, talkback radio is full of it. The Daily Telegraph jumped on an existing bandwagon and ran a front-page campaign to stop calling them ‘king hits’ and start calling coward’s punches. It feels as though the nation is starting to pay attention and feel like this problem is officially out of control and something needs to be done.
Another story receiving a lot of media coverage was in WA, where there has been an intolerable spate of shark attacks that has take the lives of three people in two years. The Barnett government has swung into action and proposed shark lynchings, with no corroborating evidence that they will work, merely to be seen to doing something about it.
That’s three deaths in two years. In the ocean. Where sharks live and we visit. Three deaths. And the result? Government sponsored action.
Then I remembered something.
A woman dies every week at the hands of her partner. One a week.
Well, actually a little over one a week. Somewhere around seventy women die every year at the hands of a person they are meant to trust. In the same time that there has been ‘a’ shark attack and ‘some’ street violence, there has continued a steady pace of women dying at the hands of their partners.
One a week. Seventy a year. Continuously.
If this were a bus route killing pedestrians, there would be an inquiry. If it were a level crossing causing accidents, it would be closed and politicians would lose their jobs over it.
If it were shark attacks off the coast of WA, I can barely imagine the scale of lynchings that would be organised. What’s seventy times a lynching? Whatever IT is, that is what would be happening.
If it were coward’s punch assaults killing one person a week on the streets of Kings Cross, martial law would be declared. Police in riot gear would be sent in to keep order. The state government would invent new crimes and harsher punishments to send a message that this will not be tolerated.
But that’s just one small part of the picture.
One in 3 women over the age of fifteen reports having experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. If that’s not you or anyone close to you, you’re lucky. Where are you reading this? Are you at work? Or on a train? Look to the woman on your left, now look to the woman on your right. One of you will experience physical or sexual violence in your lifetime.
And that’s just the incidents that get reported. A Bureau of Statistics report form 1996 found that only 19% of women who were physically assaulted contacted the police.