Yesterday hundreds and thousands of Australian men and women, girls and boys took a pledge.
In schools, in workplaces, in parliaments, in community halls, on the streets.
They marched. They sang. They made and listened to speeches. They wore, formed, etched and hung ribbons. In a myriad of ways, they marked the 12th annual White Ribbon Day, in the name of stamping out violence against women. They swore not to commit, condone or remain silent about domestic violence.
And while that happened, the horror continued. The police were still responding to 657 domestic violence calls a day.
Emergency departments were admitting victims and courts were processing AVOs. Police were prosecuting accused perpetrators, refuges were making agonising decisions about which women could be admitted, the coroner was counting deaths and children were living in fear.
Last night more than 600,000 Australians tuned in for the second part of Sarah Ferguson’s documentary Hitting Home and afterwards the ABC screened a special Q&A hosted by Julia Baird on the topic.
In devastating detail these shows covered lives lost and irrevocably marred by intimate violence. And it made one thing crystal clear: none of the things that will save women’s lives and stop domestic violence are free.
Raising awareness is critical but not if we don’t have services to help victims – women and children – who become aware of the danger they are in. As Jane Caro put it, telling women they don’t have to live with violence but failing to provide them with a means to leave safely is another form of abuse.
Apprehended violence orders are important but not when they aren’t enforced.
A national DV helpline is vital but not when phone calls go unanswered.
Crisis accommodation saves lives, but not when they are at capacity and women are turned away.
A forensic medical unit dedicated to supporting victims and securing DV convictions is brilliant but not when there is only one in the whole country.
Men’s behavioural change programs are potentially valuable and effective but not when they run for half the time of best practice programs.