For the past eighteen months our lives have been saturated with the experience of and news on COVID19.
The virus is indiscriminately ravaging the globe, having dire consequences on national and international economies and healthcare systems. We all know someone who has been directly or indirectly impacted, and we all know we have a responsibility to do our bit to stop the spread.
But there is another pandemic which has silently raged long before COVID19, and with no vaccine possible, sadly it will continue to do so.
Domestic violence is equally universal and indiscriminate, marring every singly society worldwide. Accounting for the deaths of, in accordance with 2020 data from the United Nations, 137 women every single day. 50,000 women annually. In Australia alone, on average, one woman a week is murdered at the hands of an intimate partner.
As a society we have all acknowledged COV19 is a crisis, socially, economically, and of course health wise. But what exactly differentiates it from the domestic violence pandemic which costs Australia approximately $22 billion annually and floods our healthcare system with both physical injuries and increased rates of mental health challenges?
Perhaps it is the fact that despite years of campaigning by incredible women at the fore of social change, there is a stigma attached to intimate partner violence, which COVID19 simply does not have. The fact is, many would prefer domestic violence remained an issue behind closed doors. Suffered in silence.
The fear we have of COVID19 and what has caused the global community to unite is its indiscriminate nature. We are all vulnerable to its affects and have all witnessed its impact. Domestic Violence is no different. As Rosie Batty said following the heartbreaking death of her son Luke at the hands of his father and her former partner, “Family violence happens to anybody, no matter how nice your house, no matter how intelligent you are.’”
In 2020, Australia faced its worst year on record for reported incidents of domestic violence, as already volatile situations escalated in the face of lockdown, unemployment and subsequent financial strains. A survey from July 2020, found that 10 percent of Australian women had experienced domestic violence with two thirds of these women reporting the abuse started or became worse during the pandemic.
Despite the clear evidence that this issue is staining the fabric of all sectors of Australia, the bodies working tirelessly to combat it are at the same time managing chronic underfunding and an inability to meet the rising demand for support services. Combine this with the ongoing bureaucracy battle they face having to apply for government funding each budget round, only to be forgotten or only given a small fraction of what is needed.
Realistically, to have any chance, a dedicated funding stream which will survive budgets and government changes is needed to support agencies.
COVID19 has in some ways brought out the best in humanity. United by a singular foe as a nation we have diligently stayed informed and vigilant for signs of the virus. We have called out and at times reported to the police those who hinder our progression. We have lobbied state and national governments for more support. And we have supported victims, never asking them to endure it in silence, or telling them the virus is actually a nice guy, he was just drunk, or maybe they should give the virus another chance he can change.
For the past eighteen months our lives have been saturated with the news and experiences of COVID19, but with vaccines on the horizon an end is in sight.
The same cannot be said for domestic violence, and every day until we say enough is enough this pandemic will rage on behind closed doors. It is our responsibility, our debt to the women who have died at the hands of intimate partner abuse, to treat domestic violence with the same levity we have treated COVID 19. When this pandemic is over, let’s not forget the power we have as a community working towards a shared goal.