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‘Epidemic’ of violence against women a national crisis

Desperate call for action after spate of horror killings

A recent spate of violent deaths of women across Australia has sparked a bipartisan call for better support and a national approach to tackling the scourge.

Researcher and journalist Sherele Moody, of Australian Femicide Watch, said 58 women had been killed in Australia this year.

Five have died in just the past 10 days.

The most recent deaths spanned the nation with women found dead in Perth, Bendigo, Canberra, Sydney, the Hunter region and Aldinga beach in South Australia.

One of the most high-profile was that of 21-year-old high school water polo coach Lilie James, whose body was found with horrific head injuries in the gymnasium toilets at a Sydney private school on Thursday.

Paul Thijssen, a 24-year-old sports coach at the same school, was wanted for questioning and had reportedly been in a relationship with her during the weeks leading up to her death.

On Sunday, 46-year-old Analyn Oasias was found unresponsive in a Kangaroo Flat property, south of Bendigo in central Victoria.

She was taken to hospital but died a short time later.

Oasias’s two primary school-aged children were in the home at the time but were not physically injured.

A 44-year-old Junortoun man has been charged with her murder.

Elsewhere, Cameron John Pearson, 42, briefly appeared in Perth Magistrates Court on Tuesday accused of murdering respected lawyer Alice McShera, 34. Her body was found with serious head injuries in a luxury hotel room in Perth’s casino resort on Monday.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, Liberal MP Bridget Archer, Labor MP Alicia Payne and Greens spokeswoman on women Larissa Waters urged governments to tackle the root causes of violence against women and children, and transform harmful social norms that can lead to femicide.

They also called for more funding for frontline services that provided help to women escaping violence.

“Governments at all levels must continue to prioritise this issue with funding and leadership, and each of us must drive the cultural change we need to end the epidemic of violence against women in our communities,” they wrote.

Acting Opposition Leader Sussan Ley said things needed to change.

“This is a national crisis and we are not talking about it enough,” she said.

“With more and more women being killed, questions must be asked about what is being done.

“We must move past despair and anger and take greater action, because the violence has not slowed and the killings have not stopped.”

Elsewhere, advocate Chanel Contos criticised the lack of media coverage of the 58 women allegedly killed in by men close to them.

“Where is the coverage for that? Matthew Perry, from Friends died last week, every single media outlet in Australia covered it,” she told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

Contos also criticised the emphasis on Thijssen, the colleague suspected of killing James.

“There was things saying he was a school leader, he was a sports captain, celebrating his status as if it’s a shock horror,” she said.

“Just the way that teachers should have training … to be transformative actors in this change, so should the media.

“We need to stop with the clickbaity headlines, that’s trauma bait from someone’s travesty.”

Exact figures on the number of women killed by violence can be hard to pinpoint due to the nature of ongoing investigations and the pace at which these statistics can grow.

But research shows family, domestic and sexual violence remains a persistent issue.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found one-in-six women, since the age of 15, had experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or previous co-habiting partner.

A survey on national community attitudes found there was an improvement in understanding of violence against women.

However, 25 per cent of respondents believed women who do not leave their abusive partners are partly responsible for the violence continuing and 34 per cent agreed it was common for sexual assault accusations to be used as a way of getting back at men.

About a third did not know women were more likely to be raped by a known person than a stranger and 43 per cent did not recognise men were the most common perpetrators of domestic violence.

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– with AAP

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