A Time For Action on Ending Violence Against Women
Published: 27 November 2018
In wake of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Sunday, Australian Association of Social Workers national president Christine Craik says governments need to be more responsive to the building tide of social change around ending gendered violence.
Violence against women is one of the most pervasive and devastating human rights violations. For many of us, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was a sombre reminder of how far we still have to go to assure the safety of every woman and girl in Australia, and all over the world. The theme of this year was #HearMeToo, which aims to amplify the voices of women whose experiences have been silenced for far too long.
As social workers, we take this occasion to say that we do indeed hear you. In fact, as a predominantly female workforce, Australian social workers more than hear you, we are you too. And on this day, as we paused to reflect on the national crisis that is gender-based violence, we feel and live, the injustice done to all women.
We took this occasion to say to the eight Australian women who will be hospitalised due to an assault by an intimate partner today, and to all those other women who will not seek the medical assistance they require, as every day: we hear you.
To Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, who are five times more likely to be victims of homicide than non-Indigenous women, and 35 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence related assaults: we are outraged at the cultural enablers that still impact violently on you as a result of colonisation.
To the 60 women who have been murdered in Australia this year alone, we mourn you. We mourn for the children and families you leave behind. We know your names, and we carry them with us in our fight for recognition.
We hear you, and we have been hearing you for as long as you’ve honoured us with your stories. Know that for every whispered disclosure, every devastated, angry, or exhausted re-telling – for which you have so often unjustly been the one to feel shame, guilt and responsibility – we have heard one thousand creative strategies of resistance and survival. And that we witnessed it, no less, in the very act of your speaking.
For every time you speak, every time you say, “hear me, too”, you assert your right to be free from violence and abuse.
We also know that for many women, for many reasons, it’s not possible to speak. To those women, whose names we may never have the privilege of knowing, we take this occasion to say that we hear you too; and that we notice the wisdom, the courage and the survival in your silence.
But let this not be another occasion on which women speak only to each other about the devastating consequences of gendered-violence. To those who cause harm: we believe in your capacity to change. Only you are accountable to your choice to use violence, and to the wreckage wreaked in the lives of women and their children. Only you are responsible for seeking support for your behaviour. Today, we implore you to seek support. To those in positions of power capable of beginning the huge cultural change we need in our society to end this violence against women, today we also implore you to have the courage and enact that change.
Social workers are committed to having a strong voice on matters of social justice and human rights, which is why, importantly, we also want to remind Australian governments that gendered violence is both prevalent but also preventable.
Gendered violence is a systemic issue, driven by gendered inequality, and it can be addressed by cultural change. This can only occur when there is a concerted effort, and adequate investment, toward that end.
We need a national coordination of prevention, early intervention, crisis and recovery. And this is what we are calling on Australian governments to commit to today.
As more and more women come forward to speak truth to power, to say “hear me, too”, we ask that governments be responsive to the building tide of social change; that one day, the leadership of this country might be able to say, “we did”.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
About the author: Christine Craik is the national president of the Australian Association of Social Workers.