real life

The mother of Lisa Harnum has a message for women everywhere. Please share it.

Lisa Harnum fell to her death after her fiance threw her off a balcony.

Lisa Harnum knew she was going to die.

Prior to her death, she had made a final, desperate phone call home. She pleaded with her mother to come and get her, to save her from what had become nothing less than a living hell. Before ending her conversation, Lisa Harnum said to her mum “remember that I love you…. if anything happens.”

Yesterday a court found Lisa’s former boyfriend Simon Gittany guilty of her murder. The court accepted the Crown’s version of events, that the young and beautiful ballerina had been in a long term emotionally abusive relationship that culminated in her death.

One witness described hearing Lisa’s cries from her apartment, “Help me, God help me” she yelled out.

69 seconds later Lisa’s dead body was lying on the pavement, having been thrown over the balcony railing.

>Australia has become all-consumed with this case; the attractive couple at the centre, just enough intrigue to keep the public guessing about the verdict, the sideshow of Gittany’s new girlfriend standing by his side… the tears, the grief, the horrific and brutal descriptions of how Lisa Harnum died.

It’s the stuff of gripping, shocking, unbelievable television news.

But here’s the thing. What happened to Lisa Harnum  is not unusual.

The mother of Canadian Lisa Harnum.

On average, a woman is killed by her partner (or a former partner) every week in this country. The most common cause of preventable death amongst women aged 15-44? Is the person they love. The person they (at some stage at least) trusted above and beyond everyone else in the world. The person who they came to depend on, to care for, to make love to.

And despite the white ribbons we casually swap our $2 for, despite the brave marches on our streets in a bid to reclaim them as safe for women to walk, despite the vigils to remember those we have lost… this just keeps happening.

Australian women are being subject to emotional, physical, financial and sexual abuse each and every day. And in the overwhelming majority of those instances, the violence is being perpetrated by someone who claims to love her.

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I have been lucky. I have never had a partner seek to harm or control me.

But I have watched as dear friends have retreated inside themselves. I have watched as women I know have become reclusive, reluctant to speak about their partners, and slowly but surely disappeared from my social circle. I have spoken in hushed tones to others about it. I have speculated, toyed with raising my concerns, wondered whether or not it was my ‘place’ to intervene or whether I was ‘close enough’ to the woman in question to say something.

And I never have. I have always concluded that it was someone else’s call to take that vulnerable and broken woman by the hand and say: Are you sure you’re alright? Is there any way that I can help you? Are you being harmed? Do you want to get out?

Last night, speaking to Channel 9’s A Current AffairLisa Harnum’s mother pleaded with the public for her daughter’s tragic death to prompt some meaning, some message, some call to action for the thousands of women trapped in abusive relationships.

“Young women need a voice…” she said. “To the girls: if something doesn’t seem right, try and get help, someone you can talk to. You gotta reach out to somebody, to share it with, to help you deal with the situation because [you] can’t do it alone.”

In the spirit of what Lisa Harnum’s mother has asked, Mamamia would like you to take our pledge today.

This is not a petition. This is not about lobbying governments or trying to make changes to the legal system. Others are already doing that difficult and very important work.

This is a pledge for ourselves. A personal pledge that, as women, we will look out for each other.

That we will not stand silently by because we’re afraid of being politically incorrect or causing offence. That instead we will ask, we will check, we will make absolutely sure that if our sisters, mothers, aunts, colleagues, and friends are being hurt – that they know we are here, waiting and willing to listen. Waiting and willing to help.

Vale, Lisa Harnum.

In memory of Lisa Harnum