Grave fears for domestic violence victims this Christmas

The stories women have shared of their torments at the hands of domineering men are chilling - and all too common.

The stories women have shared of their torments at the hands of domineering men are chilling - and all too common. Photo: Getty

As the calendar clocked over into the 52nd week of the year, violence against women claimed another life.

Fifty-four women in 52 weeks have died at the hands of violence in Australia.

It’s a sobering statistic that isn’t going to get any brighter when Christmas arrives.

During the festive season, police and domestic violence support networks experience a spike of up to 25 per cent in calls for help.

Those in the domestic violence space are bracing themselves for even more requests for help this year.

The coronavirus pandemic – job losses, spiralling anxiety and stress levels, and lockdowns – have created a “perfect storm” for domestic violence, Chris Boyle says.

Mr Boyle founded StandbyU support network and has 25 years’ experience in the field.

“What we’re seeing is almost this eruption ready to happen,” he told The New Daily.

‘A national emergency’

It’s an accepted stat that on average, one woman in Australia is killed every week by a current or former partner.

The latest finding from Counting Dead Women – run by feminist activist collective Destroy the Joint – shows nothing has changed.

As the country recorded 52 deaths in 52 weeks, Our Watch founding chairwoman Natasha Stott Despoja declared Australia’s violence against women status a “national emergency”.

According to Our Watch, a not-for-profit focused on the prevention of violence against women and their children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are nearly 11 times more likely to die from assault than non-Indigenous women.

The people who are more likely to be subjected to violence are refugee and migrant women, women with disabilities and LGBTQI people.

‘The perfect storm’

Christmas is year in, year out a climate that can create domestic violence.

Increased alcohol intake can turn a temper into abuse.

Families come together with unresolved disputes bubbling under the surface.

Financial pressures make it hard to live up to expectations of ‘the perfect Christmas’.

These risk factors have been amplified by COVID-19, StandbyU’s Mr Boyle explained.

Plus, because work and school have wrapped up for the year, victims might be cut off from support services they rely on – their abuser could be at home 24/7, monitoring every phone call and web session, Mr Boyle said.

Christmas is when it can all boil over.

“We need to understand and work on the causal issues, and isolation is a massive causal factor for domestic violence to breed,” Mr Boyle said.

“So connections and safe connections is what we believe we could work towards this Christmas.”

The spike can spill over into the January school holidays, Annabelle Daniel told The New Daily.

The chief executive of Women’s Community Shelters, Ms Daniel said she generally sees a 15 to 20 per cent increase in requests for help in January.

There is good news

Our Watch chief executive Patty Kinnersly said violence against women is preventable but requires collective action from all corners of Australia to address what drives it – gender inequality and disrespect for women.

Whether it be workplaces, sporting codes, schools, universities, or the media, stamping out violence against women starts with the individual, Ms Kinnersly said.

“We must model respectful relationships and do something in response to disrespect towards women in the form of jokes, comments, or inappropriate behaviour,” she said.

It will take all pillars of society to fight the scourge that is violence against women. Photo: Getty

Federal, state, and local governments must also commit to enacting laws and creating policies that promote gender equality.

“It also requires the leadership of workplaces, schools, national sporting organisations, and the media to pay, treat, and value women and girl’s contributions equally and to stamp out the discrimination they face,” Ms Kinnersly said.

She wants to see long-term funding across the entire violence against women sector, including response and early intervention work, as well as prevention.

Family and domestic violence support services

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