The footage of Sydney woman, Rana Elasmar, 31, heavily pregnant, being punched in the face and then stomped on in a Parramatta café last Wednesday evening, is sickening.
The 43-year old man who approached the table where Elasmar was sitting with friends was a stranger. He reportedly verbalised his hatred for Muslims before he commenced physically attacking Elasmar who was 38 weeks pregnant. He has been charged and refused bail.
Elasmar was taken to Westmead hospital for treatment and shortly afterwards took to Facebook to address a few issues about the attack. She explained she is usually very private but had things she needed to say.
“I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. I am a Muslim,” she wrote. “I have experienced occurrences of verbal abuse and hate from other Australians in the past but I have never thought that physical abuse of this nature could happen to me. For me, the verbal abuse was already too much and I know the Islamic community feels the same. It is NOT ok. How somebody feels like they have the right to abuse another human being baffles me. It shows a lack of humanity.”
That Elasmar is accustomed to verbal abuse is shocking enough: that she was subject to physical violence in a public space is utterly reprehensible.
The attack came in the same week that new research was released showing that women wearing headscarves are most at risk of Islamophobic attacks.
Elasmar explained that she fears for the world if this hatred isn’t addressed. We all should.
Today, November 25, marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is a day that UN designated to highlight the issue of violence against women and girls and to call for more action to combat it. It now also incorporates 16 Days of Activism.
Consider this: a third of all women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Half of women killed worldwide are killed by their partners or family. Violence perpetrated against women is as common a cause of death and incapacity for those of reproductive age, as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than road accidents and malaria combined.
Violence against women and girls remains among the most widespread, and devastating human rights violations in the world.
As of Monday the 25th of November 2019, 50 women in Australia have been murdered violently this year.
50 women have died violently this year. Australia, this is horrific, heartbreaking. Monday is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women #IDEVAW, it’s time to commit to preventing this violence. It is a #nationalemergency https://t.co/c8p1jSLlFn
— Natasha Stott Despoja (@NStottDespoja) November 23, 2019
That is more than one woman every week. Around two-thirds were killed by either a current or former partner.
And that is just the women who have suffered the most extreme consequence of violence: death.
That number doesn’t count Rana Elasmar.
It doesn’t include the number of women admitted to hospital with injuries occasioned through domestic violence, which is the leading cause of hospitalised assault among girls and women in Australia.
It doesn’t capture the 5000 domestic violence incidents that police in Australia are called to every single week.
It doesn’t count the women and children traumatised behind closed doors: acts of violence, coercion and control that aren’t formally reported.
That 50 women have lost their lives to violence this year is, once again, irrefutable proof of the inexcusable deadly threat domestic violence poses. But it is just the tip of a ghastly, giant iceberg.
Trying to picture the trauma inflicted – daily – by physical, sexual and emotional violence against women, girls and children is devastating. Picture one in three women in any school, workplace or community, carrying the burden of violence. Picture everyone else in their life who might be carrying that burden too.
For every woman harmed or killed, there is often a family shattered too. Children, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins. There is often a workplace or a school or a neighbourhood or a community that will be traumatised.
Victims and survivors bear the greatest burden but they are not the only lives indelibly marked by violence.
In financial terms, we know the cost is exorbitant. Violence is a leading cause of homelessness among Australian women and children.
The cost of violence against children and young people alone in NSW is $11.2 billion a year.
This is according to a report the Advocate for Children and Young People commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to undertake: it examined 154,302 estimated cases of violence against children and young people aged 0-24, using the figures from 2016-2017.
Nationally, the cost is estimated at $22 billion a year, according to a PWC report.
But those gigantic numbers are totally inadequate at capturing the true, human cost of violence. The cost disproportionately borne by women and children who don’t enjoy the freedom of living without fear.
There isn’t a price to cover that.
Will Rana Elasmar ever live without fear of a physical attack? It would hardly be surprising if it take years, perhaps even a lifetime, to enjoy being in public without fear looming. That is a travesty. It is a shocking violation of what ought to be the most basic human right: the right to live a life free from violence.
“I want to see a world where people defend one another against cowardly acts like this and band together to protect the victims,” Rana Elasmar said. “We cannot allow behaviour like this to become the norm and sit silent.”