Please note this story includes information about Domestic and Family Violence which may cause distress. If you need immediate support, reach out to 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), a 24-hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line. 

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that begins on 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and runs until 10 December (Human Rights Day). 

This year’s theme - ‘UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls’ - calls on everyone to take action to create a world free from violence towards women. There is #NoExcuse for violence against women and girls yet it remains one of the most prevalent and pervasive human rights violations.

Roweena Moffatt, Manager Child, Youth & Family and Kelly Lester, Senior Practitioner, at The Benevolent Society, tell us why this urgent human rights issues needs to be highlighted not just on 25 November but every day of the year until violence against women and girls is eradicated. 

“Statistics, attitudes and systems reflect that whatever has been done to protect women and children in the past has unequivocally failed or even made a dent in this violation of human rights. 

“The statistics remain incredibly alarming:

  • On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
  • 1 in 3 women (31 per cent) has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
  • 1 in 5 women (22 per cent) has experience sexual violence since the age of 15.
  • 22 per cent of women have experienced sexual violence by a male, and less than one per cent by a female.
  • In the year 2021/22, 5606 women (average of 15 women/day) were hospitalised due to family and domestic violence.

The known deaths due to violence against women in Australia now stands at 53, according to researchers at Destroy The Joint who keep a continually updated Counting Dead Women Australia register. 

While domestic violence is predominantly perpetrated by men against women, the 2021 National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey revealed that 41 percent of Australians believe domestic and family violence is committed by men and women equally.

Domestic and family violence is an urgent child protection and human rights issue. It is not enough to recognise the problem and have conversations about it. We need action.

We need to educate our children and foster attitudes of gender equality. We need to place the responsibility for violence with the perpetrators and with our society.

We need more men to heed the call to challenge masculinity, rigid gender stereotypes, dominance, and control. 

We need bystanders to step up and call out behaviours and attitudes that allow this to continue. We can all contribute to this.

We need a responsive justice system that holds perpetrators accountable and does not perpetuate further abuse of victim-survivors. 

We also need wrap around domestic and family violence informed support for victim-survivors and their children so that we can break the cycle of repeated and intergenerational domestic and family violence.

Domestic and family violence is born out of and continues to be perpetuated due to gender inequality and patriarchal attitudes and systems. 

We need funding commensurate to the scale of the problem, including the personal, social, and economic costs of domestic and family violence.

Our Centre for Women’s, Children’s and Family Health in Campbelltown provides health and wellbeing services and interventions to support women, children and families. Eighty per cent of clients report experiencing domestic violence. Our Staying Home Leaving Violence program provides case management and support services to women who have escaped violent relationships and separated from their partner.

We aim to provide a place of safety and non-judgement, where women’s experiences are believed. We support women to lay the responsibility where it belongs – with the perpetrator. We aim to help them scaffold so that they can move forward with healthy and respectful relationships in their lives where possible. 

Unfortunately, the truth is for many women the violence and fear does not end when the relationship ends. Many women will never feel safe again in their lifetime. We support women to make the choices they need to make to enhance safety due to risks created from domestic and family violence.

Many of the women who access our services are just trying to survive. They are worried about putting food on the table and finding a safe place for them (and often their children) to sleep.

They are in a state of chronic stress. They are struggling with the ongoing effects of domestic violence and abuse, trauma including memory loss, hyper-vigilance, sleep disturbance, effects on the nervous system and ongoing risk to safety.

Women are often trying to protect their children and heal in the aftermath which includes trying to repair the attachment between them and their children where domestic and family violence has disrupted the attachment relationship. 

For these women, days like the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women are not on their radar.

For victim-survivors who are advanced in their healing journey, it may be a day of remembrance, of pain, of being triggered or it could be a day of empowerment.

For our staff, it is important that this urgent human rights issue is highlighted not only on the 25 November but every day.  

This is part of their working life every day of the year. Every day is an opportunity to stand up, speak out and act against violence against women.”

To find out more about The Benevolent Society’s Domestic and Family Violence Support Programs, call our Support Centre on 1800 236 762.

Anyone experiencing a crisis can also call these helplines: Lifeline 13 11 14 | Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 | Beyond Blue 1300 224 636