Another report on domestic violence and the devastating effects it has on women and children was released last week.
The numbers are mindboggling and horrific, but also numbing. It’s almost impossible to understand that the 110,000 women and t12,000 men, homeless because of violence between 2012 and 2014, are real people. They sit next to you on trains, at the desk across from you at work, in the line behind you at the supermarket. They’re not some unknowable other, they’re women and children who live in our communities and suffer every day because of violence they cannot escape.
AIHW spokesperson Mr Tim Beard said in a statement:
“One of the greatest difficulties homelessness services face is in finding long-term housing solutions for clients. Only 9% of initial requests for long-term accommodation were able to be met for domestic and family violence clients”.
9 per cent? What happened to the other 91 percent? Where are they now? How many of them had to return to the violent men they tried to leave behind, simply because they had no other options?
As staggering as those number are, they under-reported by around 15 to 20%, because they don’t include the non-government services. Annabelle Daniel, CEO for Women’s Community Shelters, wrote in the Daily Telegraph last week:
"The AIHW data only captures the input from services that are funded by governments and use their computer systems to report on client outcomes. Across the sector, Australia wide, there are a number of small grassroots organisations, local charities and foundations, medium sized networks and even special projects of larger charities which do critical domestic violence and homelessness work, including providing crisis beds and support. Yet, their data is not captured. Their beds aren’t counted. Their important casework is not reported anywhere governments can see it."
Which means there were more than 125,000 women, close to half of them with children, whose homes have become so dangerous they had to leave, despite knowing they had nowhere to go.
Even then, that’s only counting the women (who outnumbered men by almost 10 to 1) seeking assistance to leave a violent relationship. The women and children who were too scared to leave, or unable to reach out to those services, who never report the violence enacted against them, aren’t included in those numbers. We will probably never know how many of them are out there, other than that there are far, far too many.
And yet we hear story after story after story after story of funding cuts to vital services, leaving more women in danger, more children growing up in violent homes and fewer options for them to escape.
79 women were killed by violence last year, the vast majority of them by their partners, so far this year another 6 women have been killed. Hundreds of thousands more continue to live with violence.
Clearly, this is not a priority for the federal government. Perhaps they also think it is not a priority for the rest of us. Perhaps they’ve bought into the Lathameque myth that well-off women don’t suffer domestic violence, and don’t care about the women who do.
Whatever the reasons, or lack of reasons, for the government’s failure to meet its responsibilities of care for Australians in danger, this being an election year is the best time to remind them.
A few key contacts are listed below, in case you would like to remind the Prime Minister, Treasurer or Minister for Women that denying help to women and children in danger is not just abhorrent and unconscionable, it’s also not really a vote winner. It might sound ridiculous, ringing the PM to complain, but it’s actually not.
Obviously you’re not going to get through to any of these people directly. But their staff do log the number of calls, emails and letters they get on any particular topic. If enough people take the time to get in touch and make clear, reasoned points about an issue, it will filter through. Eventually.
125,000 Australian women homeless because of domestic violence.
Surely it’s at least worth a try?
Minister for Women: Michaelia Cash
Postal Address: PO Box 1966, West Perth WA 6872
Telephone: (08) 9226 2000
Treasurer: Scott Morrision
Postal address: PO Box 1306, Cronulla, NSW, 2230
Telephone: (02) 9523 0339
Prime Minister: Malcolm Turnbull
Postal Address: PO Box 545, Edgecliff, NSW 2027
Telephone: (02) 9327 3988
Phone: (02) 6277 7480
You can also search for your local member by postcode here, and find their contact details.
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.