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I’m Sick Of Talking About Preventing Domestic Violence When Nobody’s Listening Until It’s Too Late

This year, there have been 31 women killed by domestic violence. Underneath the rage, there’s something more frightening - exhaustion. 
Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

Prevention is better than a cure. We all know this.

It’s why we wear our seatbelts, and cover our mouths when we sneeze, and it’s why I stopped running before work when the mornings became too dark to feel safe.

But just as there’s no point putting your seatbelt on after you’ve already crashed, sometimes it’s too late for prevention. And when it comes to domestic violence in this country, we’ve officially crashed and burned – at least it feels that way, if you’re a woman. 

Last year, the government set a target to reduce the number of women killed by their intimate partner by 25%. Instead, it rose by almost 30%.

This year alone, there have been 31 women killed by domestic violence, according to Destroy The Joint’s Counting Dead Women Australia. Unbelievably, there’s no official tracker gathering this data, which speaks volumes. We track sporting team stats like it’s an art, and rattle off the price of shares and monitor the average temperature each month, but the murder of women? Apparently it’s not a priority. Like so much in this sphere, an official tracker is ‘in the works,’ expected to be live by mid-2025. How many more women will be dead by then? 

Last week a two year old boy, Rowan, was murdered by his father, James Harrison. Rowan’s mother and Harrison’s ex-partner, Dr Sophie Roome, held an active AVO against Harrison at the time. But even so, Deputy Commissioner Peter Thurtell claimed Harrison’s history of domestic violence didn’t include anything “significant.”

That word leaves me revolted. What kind of domestic violence is considered ‘insignificant?’ Why are we waiting until women and children are burned alive, like Hannah Clarke and her three children, or dead in their homes like Molly Ticehurst, whose ex-partner was released on bail just days before he murdered her? Why is a violent man’s right to access his children prioritised over that child’s right to safety? To life?

My daughters are three and six. I can’t imagine the terror I would feel if I had to hand them over to a man I knew to be violent. I can’t imagine being forced to put their protection in the hands of a system that is so clearly not working.

When the budget was handed down this month, the government made much of its plan to focus on the prevention of domestic and family violence. And yes, of course this is essential.

Of course prevention is the end-goal. But at this point, talking about prevention feels like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping, oozing wound. In the meantime, women fleeing violence are turning to woefully under-funded emergency services that don’t have the means to support them. They’re relying on a police system that can’t or won’t take them seriously until something ‘significant’ happens. If they come back too often, they’ll be accused of ‘cop-shopping,’ like Kelly Wilkinson was as she desperately sought help in the lead-up to her brutal murder earlier this year.

I guess her death was finally considered ‘significant’ enough. 

It’s the same story of too little, too late, just like the Senate inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women and children, which was opened in August 2022. We’re still waiting for the report, but the rising death toll isn’t waiting for anyone.

Maybe that’s why, underneath the rage so many of us are feeling, there’s something more frightening. I know I’m not the only one who’s feeling it: exhaustion. 

I’ve started running again. Not because I feel safe, but because I’ve realised women in this country aren’t safe, no matter what we do.

We’re not safe walking home, but we’re not safe in our homes, and we’re not safe on a date, but we’re not safe at work either. I’m tired of weighing up the odds. I’m tired of the public outrage over every murder, only for nothing to change.

If the government’s plan to eradicate domestic violence within a generation is successful, then maybe when my girls are my age they’ll be able to go for a run at whatever time of day they please. Maybe they’ll feel safe walking without their keys in their hands. Maybe they’ll be taken seriously if, in the worst case scenario, they ever need protection.

But until then, I’ll hold their hands tight in our local Westfield (but don’t worry, Joel Cauchi ‘wasn’t targeting women’) and I’ll teach them they don’t owe anyone a hug (but ‘kids are so entitled these days.’) Because prevention won’t save anyone who needs help right now. For a society that’s in the domestic violence equivalent of the ICU, we need a cure, and we need it now.

For support, please contact 1800Respect

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