Violence Against Women
When people hear the phrase “violence against women”, they are likely to imagine isolated incidents of domestic violence, wartime atrocities or rape in an alleyway. Few are likely to know just how complex and broad an issue it is and, sadly, how widespread it is in Australian society.
According to White Ribbon’s summary of The Personal Safety Survey (2006), in Australia:
• Close to half of all women (40%) have experienced violence since the age of 15;
• Just under one third of women (29%) have experienced physical assault;
• Nearly one in five women (17%) have experienced sexual assault;
• Nearly one in six women (16%) have experienced violence by a current or previous partner in their lifetime;
• Since the age of 15, one third of women (33%) have experienced inappropriate comments about their body or sex life, one quarter (25%) have experienced unwanted sexual touching, and one in five (19%) have been stalked.
Violence against women is a big problem in our country, with one woman dying every 8 days due to intimate partner violence or domestic abuse. It has been described as being at “epidemic” proportions in Australia while rates of sexual assault against indigenous women are 4 times higher than the national average. In war torn countries, like the DR of Congo, rates are even higher, with 48 women being raped every hour. Both locally and abroad, violence against women is one of the greatest social ills facing humanity.
*WOMEN’S REFUGES AND SPECIALIZED SERVICES CURRENTLY FACING MASS CLOSURES*
Those facts in mind make the current situation facing women’s refuges in NSW even more precarious. The government has launched a new model for funding homelessness and crisis refuges that alter the delivery of specialist services. Under the “Going Home Staying Home” restructuring reforms, the number of homelessness service providers that the government will fund has been drastically cut from 336 to 69 lead agencies, resulting in generalist and centralized services by large NGOs taking over.
From approx. 90 women’s only refuges, only 14 remain open after the reforms. Under these reforms, women-only and Aboriginal homeless services can no longer exist as independently run, specialized services, placing women and children fleeing violence at greater risk.
Women want to take refuge in safe places that understand the nature and complexity of this form of violence. We need feminist services, not generalist services.
However services are now being competitively tendered, and a majority of the organisations taking over now have a faith based approach. These faith based organisations are taking over despite their dearth of expertise running domestic violence services, and lack of experience in the local community. The tendering process has excluded highly specialised care models, and has lacked transparency.
We fear people will recognise that these services cannot meet their needs, and will not get the specialised support that they need and deserve. The government’s message is effectively “Go Home, Stay Home,” and keeps people in situations that they would otherwise leave.
As a result of committed community campaign work, several refuges have been temporarily saved, but efforts must continue. Although there have been some wins for several inner city services, concerns remain about the future of refuges in regional areas in particular.
The Sydney Feminists are currently supporting the efforts of No Shelter, a community collective against gendered violence, and their campaign against the closure of women’s refuges in NSW. We stand by their demands calling for long term re-funding of independent women’s only services, as well as an end to the competitive tendering across the welfare sector.
For more information about the situation of women’s refuges in NSW and the “Going Home, Staying Home” reforms please refer to the following resources:
The Sydney Feminists has a dedicated Violence Against Women Officer and has made the issue one of its 4 core focuses. We aim to educate people about the rates of violence, where they can seek help and how they can assist in prevention. We also aim to educate young men about the issue, primarily by analysing what it is about the social construct of masculinity that encourages risky and aggressive behaviour. Examining masculinity and conventional notions of manhood is an essential component of our efforts to improve society through education. Our primary method is through documentary screenings and workshops.
We also recognise that violence against women comes in many forms, such as:
verbal abuse and threats
forced genital mutilation
Little is known about the widespread nature of these issues and that is something we seek to change by putting on awareness-raising events, campaigns, fundraisers for shelters and educational programs.
(If this is an area you are passionate about and you would like to contribute to, see our Volunteer Options page to find out how you can help.)
To find out more about the issue of violence against women in Australia, please visit our VAW Information Page.