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'Road rage' did not kill Tara Brown.

Trigger warning: This article deals with incidents of domestic violence and may be triggering for some readers. 

Tara Brown’s day started like any other.

Just after 8.30am on Tuesday, like so many parents all over the country, she dropped her three-year-old daughter to childcare. The ordinary part of her day finished there.

Upon leaving the childcare centre, the 24-year-old mother-of-one discovered her partner waiting in his car. It must have been a chilling discovery.

Five days earlier she’d gone to the police for help. She showed them a series of text messages from her partner and explained she feared for her safety. She didn’t fear a random ‘road rage’ incident, as many national headlines continue to suggest. She feared what her partner might do to her.

Could she have known, then, how justified her fear was? Could she have known, then, just what brutality awaited her?

That five days later she would be in a coma? That six days later her family would have to turn her life support off? That her three-year-old daughter would be sentenced to a life without her mother?

Tara Brown pictured with her partner. Image via Facebook.

Could she have known that she would be run off the road at 100 kilometres an hour on a suburban street?

Could she have known that a street full of people would then watch in horror as she was bludgeoned practically to death with a steel rod?

I hope she didn’t know but I suspect she might have. Domestic violence was familiar territory for Tara Brown: would she have turned to the police unless she feared the worst?

Tara Brown is the 61st woman who has been killed violently in Australia this year and, like at least two-thirds of those women, Tara was allegedly killed by a man she knew. She is another victim of this scourge that is killing almost two Australian women every week. Women of all ages, from all walks of life, whom are tragically united by their circumstances.

In every case the facts are shocking. Women are being stabbed. Shot. Hit. Beaten. In every case we watch in horror. We struggle to comprehend how anyone could possibly kill someone they love. We can’t understand how any woman could ever meet this cruel fate. But we cannot be surprised. Not anymore. We are not in the dark and we cannot pretend that we are.

Just one of today’s headlines that persisted in calling Tara Brown a ‘road rage’ victim.

Because the only thing more certain than our collective horror at every violent death that makes the news, is that this will happen again. Maybe in a day, maybe in three days. If we’re lucky five or six days might pass without incident, but it will happen again. And again. And again.

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And it’s not just women being killed. Others will be beaten, some will be hospitalised and some will hide their scars from the world.

How many more women have to die before we respond? Before we say this is an unacceptable and unpalatable national emergency?

Tara and her daughter. Screenshot via Channel 7.

There is no shortage of human suffering. There is a palpable sense of urgency in the global community right now about the atrocities in Syria, in Iraq and their neighbouring countries. It is absolutely right for global leaders to step up and help.

But that does not negate the human suffering at home. A brutal ‘death cult’ in the Middle East does not render the brutal form of intimate terrorism – that is taking two Australian lives every week – any less horrific.

Domestic violence is the terrorism threat that is not just in the backyard of Australian families. It is inside their homes. And it deserves to be treated with the same urgency, the same leadership and the same unequivocal commitment that we provide any threat to national security.

Like any terror threat, domestic violence isn’t a simple problem to fix. It is complex and tackling it requires a suite of action. We need to invest in prevention, in education, in providing support for victims. We need to ensure that there are safe refuges for victims to attend.

We need to ensure that the 1800 RESPECT line is funded so that there is not a single call for help that goes unanswered.

Tara with her partner and her daughter. Screenshot via Channel 7.

We need to ensure police and courts are trained and resourced to adequately protect and support victims. We need to ensure that no police officer ever suggests that a victim seek help elsewhere, as is being reported in Tara’s case.

And we desperately need to overhaul our attitudes. We need to stop asking why women don’t leave and start asking why men are violent. We need to stop dismissing brutal acts of violence as ‘road rage’ incidents or men blowing off steam. We need to stop apologising for violent men. We need to stop excusing it.

And we must listen to victims.

Before her son Luke was killed last year Rosie Batty said no one would listen to her experience of violence. It was only after he was murdered that people would listen. That is a fatal indictment on our system.

We need to listen to victims before someone dies. The death of Tara Brown was not unpredictable. It’s on us. How many more will it take?

If this post has brought up issues for you, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or go to WhiteRibbon.org.

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