By RACHEL BROWN
Don’t know about you, but most mornings I struggle just rolling out of bed. My mate, Matt Bell, however has been hauling his tired body up at 4am to complete his week’s requisite 100kms. He needs the miles in his legs for the 160km Alpine Challenge (think four marathons in one), with 7,500m elevation (the height of 25 Eureka towers). Crazy? Yes. But I couldn’t be prouder.
Matt’s undertaking this challenge to raise awareness about domestic violence. Hopefully it’ll also raise some funds for the White Ribbon foundation, a male-led campaign to help prevent violence against women. The statistics are grim. One in three Australian women will be physically assaulted by an intimate partner at some stage in their lives. One in five will be sexually assaulted. And every week, a woman is killed by her current or ex partner.
In a sentencing last month of a family violence perpetrator, a New South Wales judge remarked domestic violence is a form of “intimate terrorism”. That’s how many women describe it. Terrorised. On edge. Just waiting for him to snap. They’re in their house but never feel at home. As a journalist I’ve covered far too many domestic homicides. So I welcomed the chance to help.
By help, I mean keeping him company for paltry 20km runs, which Matt bookends with a 20km run to meet me, then back again. And repeat. Many of his mates pitch in too, joining him for training runs in Victoria’s beautiful Grampians, or Yarra Ranges. There’s no better metaphor for life than running. Just keep going. One foot in front of the other. A modest Matt will tell you, you’ll usually find him at the mid to back of a trail pack. But that’s also where you usually find the people with the biggest hearts, those who have to push that little bit harder, or who have a goal or cause that’s brought them there.
Growing up in Scotland, Matt says he witnessed his fair share of domestic violence in his local community. Having since moved to Australia, he’s seeing similarly distressing breakdowns in society through his work as a nurse, firstly at the Royal Women’s Hospital and now at the Epworth. Matt says ‘the standard we walk past is the standard we accept’, so he decided to stand up against it, well, run at it to be precise. He knows there’s going to be some very dark times on this 40+ hour run, which will push him to the limit physically and mentally. But he says it’s nothing compared to the pain and suffering thousands of women face every day.