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We've lost 38 women to violence this year. We'll lose more before Christmas.

WARNING: This post deal with domestic violence, suicide and murder and could be triggering for some readers.

On November 17 we lost another woman. 

We are yet to learn her name. She was 42 years old and sustained significant head injuries before allegedly being set on fire at a home in the NSW Riverina region. Her brother was charged with murder.

It's an atrocious violent story that you probably didn't see in the headlines. 

Because unfortunately a woman dying at the hands of another in Australia is not isolated. In this country it's devastatingly common. 

Watch: Women and violence; the hidden numbers. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

According to Destroy The Joint's grim tally 'Counting Dead Women', we've already lost 39 in 2021, and it's inevitable we'll lose more. We lost 57 women in 2020, and 63 in 2019. 

We're still losing on average one woman a week to a current or former partner, and those statistics don't even shed light on the realities of domestic abuse and the sexual, emotional and financial manipulation that sits alongside the physical violence.

Every year at Mamamia we write the same story, calling for more to be done. Every year we watch as the hopes, dreams and futures of daughters, mothers, aunties, sisters and grandmothers are cut short.

In October we lost two pregnant mothers. Janet Dweh died in her Perth bedroom weeks away from delivering her fourth child. The 36-year-old had been settling into maternity leave when her boyfriend allegedly took her life. 

Michelle Darragh had recently left her relationship, and was staying with her parents. When she returned to her Melbourne home to pick up some belongings she was allegedly killed by her ex and father to her two, soon to be three, children. 

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Angela Silk was allegedly stabbed to death by her 'on again, off again' boyfriend in a Brisbane home in September.

Michelle Michell was also fatally stabbed. Her husband allegedly murdered her, injured their daughter and then died by suicide in June.

That same month Stacey Klimovitch was shot as she answered the front door of her Newcastle home. 

Kelly Wilkinson was found in her Queensland backyard. Her three children, all under nine, were at home when her ex-husband allegedly burnt her to death in April.

She'd been in contact with police and support services on a daily basis in the last few weeks of her life. 

Kelly Wilkinson died in April. She'd already asked for help multiple times. Image: GoFundMe.

It's important to point out that not all the perpetrators of violence against women are men. But out of 38 stories, there is an alleged female attacker in just two of the cases in Australia in 2021. 

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Violence against women is a men's issue. It's endemic because men are the drivers of perpetration. 

Queensland police sergeant Sharon Morgan attends a domestic violence callout daily. She talks to terrified women about their options, many of which they are too scared to take. 

After sharing her own experience with a domestically violent partner for Mamamia just last week, two other serving police officers have found the courage to leave their own dangerous circumstances showing that DV doesn't discriminate. Even those in positions of power can be victims behind closed doors. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic a shadow pandemic arose as domestic violence calls for help increased.

Zen Tea Lounge Foundation, a Western Sydney based charity empowering survivors of domestic violence received 50 per cent more calls for help from women with children during lockdowns. It also saw a 20 per cent increase in phone calls from men asking for ways to help stop themselves from harming their own families.

"Tragically, almost one in 10 Australian women in a relationship have experienced domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis, with two-thirds saying the attacks started or became worse during the pandemic," co-founder Amy Nguyen told Mamamia. 

"Women trapped in violent relationships often have very little independence and what we found was that the lockdowns have taken away the only moments of reprieve they did have — whether that is going to the shops or sharing a cup of tea in a safe space like Zen Tea Lounge."

But family violence was a national emergency long before 2020, and extends far beyond our waters. It's why we have an annual International Day to End Violence against Women which we marked this week. 

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It's why for the next 16 days the United Nations is focusing on activism in this space as they attempt to disrupt and shine a light on the issue.

Globally an estimated 137 women are killed by their intimate partner every day, and in April 2020 the UN urged all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women and girls a key part of their national response plans in the wake of COVID-19. 

Australian women need help, now. 

In March 2020 the Morrison government announced a $150 million domestic violence package as part of its COVID response. 

In May 2021, they further promised $1.1bn for women's safety in response to urgent calls for action. In September we were also promised a new national action plan to end violence. 

But that money is yet to find its way into the hands of the services that need it, and as Elena Campbell, Associate Director of Research, Advocacy and Policy at RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice explains we need to, "stop thinking that we can address this issue with budget top ups and piecemeal announcements."

"We need a wholesale rethink on the extent to which we invest in the protection of women and children — in housing, in support, in legal services, in recovery — and we need to commit to this investment on an ongoing basis."

Because the problems arise in the details that these sweeping promises don't highlight. Like the fact Indigenous women and temporary visa holders are at particular risk. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are disproportionately driven into homelessness. And as National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum co-chair Antoinette Braybrooke says "when we flee violence, we have nowhere to go."

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Further to that, our policing systems are developed through a "white lens," Ashlee Donohue, CEO of Mudgin-Gal told Mamamia.

"In most domestic violence incidents the police are the first responders. Therefore, it’s imperative for them to be trauma-informed and culturally aware not just of Aboriginal people, but of ALL nationalities," she said.

As for visa holders, Gregory Rohan, Director and Solicitor of Immigration Advice & Rights Centre (IARC) told Mamamia, "Women on temporary visas are often unable to access Centrelink, childcare subsidies, Medicare or housing, forcing them to choose between staying in an abusive relationship or risking homelessness, destitution, and having their children removed."

Then there's the fact that once women do seek help, the systems designed to assist are complicated, confusing and contradictory. 

"A number of service areas, including family law, child protection, civil court protection order systems, housing, mental health and alcohol and other drug services share the same clients yet clients are often still expected to navigate siloed service responses rather than being supported holistically," said Associate Professor Silke Meyer, Deputy Director of the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre.

And that's only scratching the surface. Domestic violence is a complex problem in this country, and it needs attention from a multitude of angles. 

The federal government is setting up a domestic, family and sexual violence commission as part of its national plan to end violence against women and children. It will monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of initiatives to prevent violence, intervene early and better support victim-survivors.

But in the meantime the death toll continues to climb. Those changes, that money, and true progress is imperative as a matter of urgency. 

Because we will lose more women before Christmas. 

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 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.

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

The United Nations is marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence from 25 November to 10 December 2021, under the global theme set by the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign: “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!” 

Feature image: Mamamia/Facebook/Getty.