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Today, as many celebrate, Australia becomes a more dangerous place for women and children.

Warning: This post deals with domestic violence and could be triggering for some readers. 

Today, thousands of people around Australia will put on their fancy clothes and fascinators and pop the champagne.

It’s the first Tuesday in November, the day of ‘the race that stops a nation’.

But as many sip their champers, take the afternoon off work, and have a punt, Australia becomes a much more dangerous place for women and children.

We lose one woman every week in Australia to domestic violence, but that’s just the tip of a very grim iceberg. Post continues below video.

Video by Mamamia

The federal government’s 1800 RESPECT service noted a 17 per cent increase in demand during Melbourne Cup Day 2017, a stat that matches a growing list of research into the link between sporting events and domestic violence.

And the victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women and children.

The Australian Institute of Criminology states there is a higher number of reported domestic violence incidents on Melbourne Cup Day and similarly, a report by VicHealth in 2011 highlighted the increase in incidents of family violence in and around major sporting events such as the Cup, as well as AFL Grand Final Day.

Ahead of 2018’s AFL Grand Final, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton warned that police are braced for a 20 per cent increase in family violence incidents after the game.

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According to research by La Trobe University’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, domestic assaults increased by more than 40 per cent in New South Wales during the nights the NRL State of Origin games were played compared to non-Origin nights.

The Melbourne Cup is, as images from Flemington later today will likely show, perhaps the most public example of Australia's binge drinking culture.

The ubiquitous nature of gambling in sport has also severely tested family relationships; creating stress, a fertile ground for family breakdown, and the use of violence.

But let’s be very clear, though they can be contributing factors, the consumption of alcohol and problem gambling doesn’t cause domestic violence.

Domestic violence is indicative of a culture of inequality and entitlement. A culture where 47 women and 20 children have died so far in 2019 due to relationship violence.

Prof Cathy Humphreys, a domestic violence researcher at the University of Melbourne, told The Guardian in 2018 the link between sporting events and increased family violence was often surprising to fans.

"They see it is as a day of celebration … for most people, that’s the way it is," she said. "But there is a group of women and children, and it’s mainly women and children, who will be very frightened at this time of the year because they know domestic violence is associated with these sorts of events."

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In 2018, Craig Drummond, CEO of Medibank, which delivers 1800 RESPECT, told the Herald Sun the surge in calls often lasts for days.

"Sporting events are often combined with an increase in gambling and alcohol consumption and people are watching the game at home in proximity to others with emotions running high," Drummond said.

"It is difficult to say why incidents of domestic and family violence increase soon after major sporting events without the reasons sounding like excuses. There are no excuses for violent behaviour. It is never okay."

The marquees are up, the canapes are ready and the corks have been popped. Ties have been tightened and frocks have been zipped.

But today, as crowds cheer the horses racing around a track, many women and children will be bracing themselves. First responders will be preparing. Helpline employees will be waiting for the phone to ring.

Punters will tank bets and horse owners will miss out on the cup, but the real losers are the ones at home not knowing how their partner or parent will respond, and whether they'll use their fists.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

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