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The horrific stories we hear are just a fraction of what’s really going on.

‘Domestic violence is more than just physical or sexual abuse, it’s also about control.’

Trigger warning: This post deals with domestic violence and may be distressing for some readers.

Sometimes something is so horrible, so confronting and so unjust, that we pretend it isn’t real. We try to ignore it, if we can.

May is domestic violence prevention month and it’s time to face the scourge of violence against women and children happening right here in our streets, our towns, our nation.

It’s been in the media a lot lately – the escalating number of women and children who have lost their lives from violence by men. So many women, so often.

Those horrific stories have left the community shocked and outraged. But the stories that make the news are just a fraction of what’s going on. Domestic violence is insidious, pervasive and mostly hidden.

The reported statistics – themselves bound to underestimate the real extent of the problem – are that one in five women have experienced domestic violence by a partner since the age of 15. In Australia, two-third of all women who are murdered are killed by their husband or live-in partner.

But domestic violence is more than just physical or sexual abuse, it’s also about control. Domestic violence is about social, financial, emotional and verbal manipulation and control to make women powerless.

It scares me that domestic violence is often so hard to redress, until it is too late. After years of abuse, a victim will often be isolated from their friends and family, cut off from financial support and emotionally dependent on the person who has manipulated them into the situation. It’s so difficult to get out.

Jill Meagher

The work of organisations such as White Ribbon, encouraging boys and men to lead social change in the anti-domestic violence movement is so important. Because of the prevalence of abuse in our society, we are going to need a significant cultural shift if we are going to curb domestic violence.

Many men are aware of domestic violence occurring within their communities and I applaud all those men who’ve stood strong amongst their peers to stop violence against women. And I encourage all men to do so – whether at the pub, at work or in home, it’s vital we end this pattern by ‘breaking the silence’ as Tom Meagher (husband of Jill Meagher, who was tragically killed in 2012) recently wrote about in his essay, ‘The Danger of the Monster Myth’.

The powerful and brave words by Meagher speak of the problems we have with society’s perception of violence against women. He says we need to end the ‘social normalisation of violence against women’, as he encourages men to speak out when they hear their male friends encouraging sexist behaviour.

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The White Ribbon campaign is fantastic but left me wondering as a woman what I can do?

It’s also time for women to break the silence.

We need to help our sisters, mothers, grandmothers and friends speak out against domestic violence and seek help. Often victims experiencing domestic violence don’t feel comfortable or safe to tell someone what is happening, but when asked, they will confide. It’s up to us, we need to start asking, ‘Are you okay?’

That’s why as a small contribution I am starting a social media campaign to encourage women to anonymously share their stories so we can help increase awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence in our society.

While the prevention of domestic violence through deep cultural change is the ultimate win, it’s vital we all recognise our role in supporting those who are experiencing violence today.

Senator Larissa Waters/

The Greens are committed to supporting women’s shelters, integrated domestic violence response programs, increasing Newstart allowance and single parenting payments for financial support and addressing the rental affordability crisis. We need to give women and children support and the ability to escape an abusive household and to be able to afford to stay free from violence.

I’m concerned about Treasurer Hockey’s recent statements that “everyone will need to feel the pain” of the looming budget – domestic violence victims must be shielded from budget cuts. When a government decides to spend $12 billion on joint strike fighters, it had better find more money to help women escape violence and make preventing domestic violence a national priority. The Greens and domestic violence prevention advocates across the country will be scrutinising the budget papers carefully on May 13 to see where this government stands when it comes to stopping the scourge of DV in our communities.

No one should live in fear – it’s time to be the answer.

If you are affected by abuse, you can receive help via Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277. For sexual assault, you can receive help by calling 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732. If you are in immediate danger, please call the police on 000.

If you have a story you are able to share with our campaign, please email: [email protected] – we will make sure to keep your story anonymous.

Senator Larissa Waters is the Australian Greens spokesperson on women.

Tags: current-affairs , domestic-violence , women
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