We need to stop sexual assault and domestic violence. Full Stop.

This is an edited extract of a talk presented by Karen Willis, Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, on 31st October, 2014.

I can't believe he thought that that was what I wanted.

What makes men do things like that?

I feel like everyone is looking at me, that they know.

I am different now, I will never be the same again.

I can't think, I can't sleep, I can't eat. It just keeps going over and over in my mind. What could I have done, how could I have escaped, I feel so useless.

I thought he was my protector.

I thought he loved me.

Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia counsellors responded to over 50,000 such calls and online contacts from across Australia in the last financial year, with 12,540 of them being new clients.

They were stories of the worst of human nature and also the best that humans can do.

17% were from men who were mostly calling about someone in their life who they cared about.

Like the dad whose beautiful daughter had just told him what had happened, who contacted our service. He didn't know what to do but his first reaction was to say he has a gun and he is going to make sure that the man didn't do that again. Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia counsellors, while understanding Dad's emotional response, asked him to consider the outcome. If he carried through at the end of the day not only would his daughter have experienced sexual assault, but her Dad would now be in jail for murder. The counsellor wondered if that was what his daughter was hoping for when she told him about what had happened, or was she looking for a big set of arms wrapped around her, telling her that he loved her, was on her side, that that bloke had no right and that were in this together.

This is when Dad started to breath and then the counsellor was able to talk with him about managing his own distress and how to best support his daughter.

In NSW in the same period there were 10,500 reports of sexual and indecent assault to NSW Police and there were over 100,000 calls for assistance because of domestic violence. The Australian Bureau of Statistics says less than 20% of incidences of sexual assault and domestic violence are reported to Police.

1 in 5 women in Australia over the age of 15 years will experience sexual assault at some time in their life and 1 in 3 will experience physical violence. In 70% of sexual assaults the offender will be a family member, a close family friend, or someone the person goes to work or school with.

Sexual assault and domestic violence is a crime that shatters the lives of the individual and it traumatises their families and children.

For domestic violence we continue to hear victim blaming. In a recent extreme DV homicide attack the offender shot his three children and then his wife. He then took his own life. In the media reports we were told that there were five victims.

It's not true. There were four victims and a murderer.

We also heard what a good bloke this man was because he coached a local team, and after all his wife had had a car accident which resulted in long term injury. How naughty of her.

That is where Full Stop comes in.

The Full Stop Foundation aims to put a Full Stop to sexual assault and domestic violence, Full Stop.

Full Stop is not about reducing the violence, or changing a few laws, or doing a talk in a school, or running a raffle in a workplace. It is about implementing evidenced based primary prevention programs that will change the violent attitudes and behaviours that lead to sexual assault and domestic violence.

Full Stop will also support the secondary prevention work of Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia.

Now I am not suggesting we have all the answers, we do have a few. But we know we will not achieve a world without rape and domestic violence tomorrow ...... that might take a few more weeks.

But what we do know is that 50,000, 10,000 or even one person contacting our service is far too many.

We know that it is only by working together, men and women, government, NGO and corporate, individuals and organisations, each in our own way to the best of our abilities we can stop sexual assault and domestic violence. Full Stop.

If you need support or advice in relation to this please call the Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia 24 hour counselling line: 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732)

Kerri Sackville

Kerri Sackville is an author, columnist and blogger.

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