Trigger warning: This post contains themes some readers may find triggering.
The bruises around her neck said it all.
Before she even spoke to me, it was obvious the trauma this woman had been through. Just days before a White Ribbon rally in Beenleigh her husband had strangled her.
The recent introduction of a new offence of strangulation, which we know is a precursor to domestic homicide, meant that her husband had been charged and was in custody, giving her and her children precious time to ensure they could remain safe. [In April last year Queensland passed a new offence of non-fatal strangulation and suffocation. The act is known to be predictive of domestic homicide]
This new offence of strangulation is making a difference, and so far we have seen 798 people charged with the offence.
Sadly, stories like this are not uncommon.
Too many women across Australia face the horrors of domestic and family violence. For them, it isn’t a story, it is the reality of their daily lives.
This Mother’s Day there will be many families who spend the day grieving. And there will be too many mother’s marking the day without their daughters. Instead, their day will be filled with sadness, with questions of “what if”. Because far too many women are no longer with us to celebrate.
Every month on average one woman is killed in Queensland as a result of domestic and family violence. Taken by a partner or former partner. As a woman, a sister, a daughter and as the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence I am proud to be part of a government that is tackling this issue head on. It is, and must remain one of our highest priorities.
We have come a long way in a short time, we have reformed laws and increased services so when women do make that really tough decision to leave they know they aren’t facing the future alone. Quentin Bryce has said the pace of change in Queensland means “there is an unprecedented level of awareness of domestic and family violence issues within our community, and an escalating momentum towards action”. This is a good thing.
More reporting of domestic violence means more victims reaching out for help. For the first time we are helping to bring this out from behind closed doors. I remember clearly a man named Phil who told me that as a child he would hide under the bed when his dad became violent. He could still remember the police saying to his Dad, “Did you just give her a slap or two?”. A slap or two!
This is in stark contrast to the attitudes and culture that underpin our police service today, who give priority attention to anyone who attends a police station on domestic violence issues, and are trained on how to sensitively handle these situations. So that attitudes like the one Phil and his Mum encountered remain a thing of the past.
Listen: Mia Freedman interviews domestic violence advocate, Rosie Batty on No Filter (post continues after audio...)
We know one of the most dangerous and difficult times for a woman is when she has made the tough decision to leave. To anyone out there thinking about leaving a violent situation, I would say the support is out there to help you get through this time and crisis shelters are available.
Thousands of women and children have received help through Queensland’s new crisis shelters – the first government-funded shelters in more than 20 years based in Townsville and Brisbane. But we know more are needed, which is why we are committed to building another shelter in Roma and at Charters Towers. Domestic and family violence is an issue that must be tackled from all angles. We must work with perpetrators to change their behaviour, and we must ensure our younger generations grow up saying not now, not ever.
One of the most important initiatives we have introduced is seeing students right across the state taking part in our Respectful Relationships program, so we can change the attitudes and behaviours that underpin the cycle of violence from a young age. But government cannot tackle domestic and family violence alone.
May is Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month, and all across the state community groups are rallying together to raise awareness and take the Not Now Not Ever challenge. Schools, businesses, sporting groups and community organisations are making a pledge that violence is not acceptable – not now, not ever – not in their playground, workplace, locker room or community.
Grants of up to $5000 are helping organisations take this pledge with us. In Toowoomba, Relationships Australia are thinking outside the box and using their grant for a public sticker campaign – “Not in our town”. A sticker delivered to every household in the Toowoomba Regional Council area, and wrap around stickers will also be displayed on the side of rubbish trucks and at bus stops. There are so many examples of local activities on the Not Now Not Ever website and I would encourage everyone to take a look and find out how they can get involved in the challenge.
Shannon Fentiman is the Queensland Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence.
If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic violence, please seek help by calling 1800-RESPECT or visiting whiteribbon.org.au. If you are in immediate danger, please call 000.