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Changing the conversation on violence against. . .

Changing the conversation on violence against women

By Emma King.
Published on the VCOSS Voice on 21 October 2013.

On Wednesday 16 October, VCOSS gathered together around 150 people from diverse backgrounds and industries to explore how our community can work together to confront the scourge of family violence. You can download or listen to the podcast of the event below.

Violence against women and children is one of the most serious issues within our community today. It has enormous impacts, not only upon the women who experience it, but also upon our wider society.

We can no longer look at the issue of violence against women as a series of isolated events.

We need to examine the causes of violence against women, and the continuum of that violence – which extends from harassment on the street, at work and in schools, right across our community.

Ultimately we need to work together as a community to change the behaviour of men who perpetrate violence against women and children.

This makes it everyone’s responsibility to speak up and make a real, profound and lasting difference and acknowledge the responsibility that we have as a community.

It is a significant challenge.

It is no coincidence that we held this forum during Anti-Poverty Week. Violence against women is one of the biggest drivers of poverty and disadvantage in our community. Family violence is the leading cause of homelessness in Victoria and a factor in the majority of child protection cases.

It is also one of the leading causes of rising crime statistics in Victoria.

More reporting means more people referred to services, and without significant increases in funding, this means more organisations struggling to meet demand.

According to Vic Health, in Victoria, male intimate partner violence is found to be the leading contributor to death, disability and illness for women aged 15 to 44 years.

Domestic violence is a greater contributor to ill health in women than tobacco, heart disease, obesity and illicit drugs.

As Victoria Police Chief Commissioner, Ken Lay, recently noted, every week in Australia a woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner.

If that were happening on the streets then there would be community outrage and demands for action.

But too often violence against women takes place behind closed doors and an out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude has been the prevailing understanding for too many for too long.

However we can change this. Making that happen requires education and communication. It requires an honest conversation – one that changes attitudes and behaviours – and where the safety, protection and well-being of women and children is its ultimate goal.

The forum held on 16 October included four experts in their field to guide a conversation around how we achieve real and lasting change.

Fiona McCormack is the CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, the peak body for women and children’s family violence services in Victoria. Domestic Violence Victoria’s mission is to lead the Victorian community in building safer lives for women and children experiencing or at risk of violence.

Damon Johnston, is the Editor of the Herald Sun, Victoria’s most read daily newspaper, which recently launched their Take a Stand campaign on family violence.

Detective Inspector Kerryn Hynam APM, heads up the Victoria Police Family Violence Coordination Unit. Kerryn’s work within Victoria Police has seen her awarded with a Queen’s Birthday honour for her commitment to social inclusion, human rights making positive change in policing.

Danny Blay is the CEO of No To Violence and the Men’s Referral Service, who work with men to change their behaviour towards women.

The forum offered profound insights into how we as a community can work together to make a real difference. It is a challenge that we all need to accept.

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