Here's how we can change the domestic violence statistics in 2017.

We know the numbers around domestic violence in Australia are horrifying. That one in six women, and one in 20 men, have experienced violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15.

That more than one woman dies every week on account of violence.

In 2015, 80 women died from violence. It is estimated 80 per cent of these deaths were cases of domestic violence.

In 2016, 71 women died.

We know reports of domestic violence have increased in the last decade. In 1995, there were 257 reports of domestic assault per 100,000 people in NSW. In 2014, that figure had become 400.

More than one woman dies every week on account of violence. (iStock)

Victoria shows the same trend. There were 70,906 reported incidences of domestic violence between 2013 and 2015, and an 8.8 increase from 2013-14 to 2014-15.

All this is overshadowed by the fact so much domestic abuse is left unreported.

According to a 2013 survey from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, of 300 victims attending NSW domestic violence services, only half reported their most recent incident to police. The most common reason for keeping quiet? Fear of revenge or further violence.

As well as this, the ABS Personal Safety Survey showed 95 per cent of men and 80 per cent of women who had experienced violence from a current partner had never contacted the police.

Then there's emotional abuse and financial abuse and sexual abuse. Where the absence of physical bruising makes the abuse more difficult to identify, less likely to be discussed, hardly ever reported.

What needs to be done?


First, we need clearer statistics. We have some data — see above — but very little insight into trends or correlations. A national data collection and recording framework will not be operational until 2022.

Sarah Ferguson and Andrew, a former abuser, discuss Domestic Violence in Australia. Post continues below.

Awareness. Yes, it's one of those words we always hear and say and write down as an-easy-to-swallow solution to complex problems. But in this case, awareness is key.

The only way to change that 95 per cent of men and 80 per cent of women who've never contacted the police? To talk about it. To tell the stories of survivors who have been in that exact same position, and gotten out. To show the options: This is what's possible and this is how it's done.

Awareness feeds into education.

Women stay in situations of domestic violence for reasons both psychological and practical.

Maybe the abuser has threatened to kill the victim, their family or friends, themselves, if they try to leave.

Maybe they've worked up to the abuse slowly, giving their victim moments of intense love and happiness in between.

Maybe they've threatened to take the children, or ruin a career, or fight the divorce in court.

“People wind up blaming themselves for the abusive behaviour of their partners,” Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School told TIME. “They convince themselves if they approach the person differently, maybe they won’t be abused.”


The practical reasons come down to money - “Economic self-sufficiency is frequently the difference between violence and safety for many victims,” states the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in the US.

Educating women - and I say women because 77 per cent of the victims in domestic violence cases are women - on the importance of financial independence; their rights when it comes to divorce and separation; the warning signs of emotional and financial abuse, before it ends in violence. These lessons are imperative in reducing the rates of domestic abuse in Australia.

Educating men is also important. According to 2015 report on Domestic Violence in Australia from the Commonwealth inter-generational trauma; witnessing or experiencing family violence as a child; and social isolation; are all factors that might lead to the perpetration of domestic violence. How can we break this cycle? Educate on what constitutes domestic violence, on how to manage anger, on how to identify and break the cycle of abuse.

And we have come a long way.

In 2015, victim of domestic violence Rosie Batty, whose son was murdered by his father in 2014, was named Australian Woman of the Year. She has given more than 250 speeches, in front of more than 70,000 people, talking about the signs of domestic abuse.

More than this, however, she has started the conversation with men about what makes domestic violence unacceptable. "She has started a process of cultural change," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in an interview about Ms Batty's impact as Australian of the Year.

A Nation grieves for Maria Lutz and her family. Post continues below.


As well as education, we need to lobby for more funding for support services - shelters and legal aid to help victims remove themselves from dangerous situations safely. 

In 2016, the state of Victoria lead the way in this.

First, there was a state Royal Commission into Family Violence. Then, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced $570 million in funding - $500 million of which was new money - would be spent on tackling 65 of the commission's recommendations.

"The Royal Commission and action in Victoria has really set a high bar in terms of prioritising responses to women and children impacted by violence, but also how we work with perpetrators, tackling key stuff around crisis accommodation and long term transition accommodation," Moo Baulch, chief executive of Domestic Violence NSW, told The Sydney Morning Herald

Slowly, we are making changes at all levels. In 2016, we saw nine fewer deaths than we saw in 2015.

In 2017, let's make sure we see the numbers decrease again.

In no world should one women die every week at the hands of someone she knows. In 2017, we need to continue the momentum in providing education and awareness. In addressing men, women, boys and girls to break the cycles of inter-generational violence and empower victims to know their options, support themselves financially and keep safe. 

"We know that it's going to take several decades to actually change society," Rosie Batty told the ABC. "But we've now started. And I don't think we had started in earnest before."