For centuries the notion that men had a right to control and ‘punish’ women was perpetuated across all continents:-
In medieval times and into the Middle Ages, European men had the right to beat or kill their wives if they misbehaved; women and children were considered their legal ‘property’ and could be bought and sold at will. It is said that in the 1800’s, a court in Britain ruled that a husband could beat his wife as long as the stick he used was no thicker than his thumb…and the term ‘rule of thumb’ was born.
It wasn’t until the late 1960’s that domestic violence against women was publicly challenged in Australia by the rising feminist movement of the day.
Unfortunately the extent and range of violent actions being perpetrated against women around the world are still atrocious. They include offences as extreme as female genital mutilation, child betrothals and trafficking of women, institutional abuse and sexual violence as a strategy in wars and armed conflict.
For women in Australia, sexual assault and domestic and family violence are still the most common pervasive human rights violations. To this day they limit the lives and cause pain and suffering to one in three Australian women.
In a global context the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (UN General Assembly 1993) recognises the enormous battle still being fought worldwide to end violence against women and defines violence against women as:-
‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life’
In Australia the Department of Families, Housing and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has developed a National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 (the National Plan) and brings together the efforts of all state and territory governments.
Details of the National Plan which is being implemented through four three-year plans can be found on the Australian Government Dept FAHCSIA website: by clicking here
It is underpinned by the belief that involving all State governments and the wider community is necessary to reducing violence in the short and longer terms, as no government or group can tackle this problem alone.
The National Plan has been developed to support all women and their children experiencing violence, including Indigenous women and their children. It acknowledges that some Indigenous communities may need extra assistance to address particular factors which contribute to higher rates of family violence and sexual assault among Indigenous people.
The Commonwealth also recently launched the Indigenous Family Safety Program and a supporting Agenda to help reduce family violence. Priorities under the Agenda are to work with indigenous communities to develop innovative approaches to address alcohol abuse, more effective police protection in remote communities, and support for community led initiatives that heal trauma and change attitudes, and improve the coordination of services to victims, including children.
In Queensland, the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 afords protection to victims of Domestic and Family Violence as well as those within Informal Care Relationships, where a person providing unpaid care to them misuses the imbalance of power in that relationship to control, abuse and instil fear. Legislation also covers Family Violence between adult family members within the immediate or extended family. However, Family Violence does not always include the elements of fear and control that are present in Domestic Violence within Intimate Personal Relationships.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities generally refer to the violence within their intimate relationships and wider families as Family Violence
Whilst DVConnect is does not hold membership of any international lobbying groups we don’t discourage anyone from exploring these options if they are so inclined to join the worldwide campaign to end violence against women
Social and economic impacts of domestic and family violence
Besides the obvious emotional, physical and health impact of domestic and family violence on the individuals involved, there are also some serious and measurable financial and community impacts on our society as a whole:-
In one of the most recent studies the 2009 Time for Action report, KPMG estimated that violence against women and their children cost the Australian economy $13.6 billion annually and this was expected to rise to $15.6 billion by 2021. In 2013, KPMG announced the annual cost had already reached $14.7 billion. To see the report click here
The Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse is a national program that reviews and disseminates evidence-based research on the causes, effects and ongoing impacts of domestic and family violence (DFV). It provides far reaching reports, statistics and publications on a wide range of issues associated with domestic and family violence, which are far too numerous to list here… for more information click here
The ‘Hidden’ Homeless
Domestic and family violence is also the major cause of homelessness for women and their children. Every year an immeasurable number of Australian women and children have their lives and housing circumstances disrupted because of domestic and family violence. This creates significant and negative impacts on all involved, especially children. Women in this situation have become known as the ‘hidden’ homeless.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report, Specialist Homelessness Services 2011-12, shows that people experiencing domestic or family violence make up one-third of the almost 230,000 Australians that accessed specialist homelessness services in that period. Of such clients, 78 per cent were female. To see the report click here