One woman is killed every week in Australia by her partner or former partner.
That tragic ‘statistic’ is referred to more frequently than ever: in newspapers, on television, in parliament and on social media. It seems like the number of Australians who recognise that fact and appreciate its gravity is approaching critical mass.
Unfortunately, in the time it has taken for that fact to enter the collective Australian consciousness, the figure has doubled.
As of this week, 13 Australian women have reportedly been killed as a result of domestic violence in the first seven weeks of 2015. That’s almost two women per week.
Last Friday, Kerry Michael was found dead on a bushwalking trail after suffering severe head trauma. Police are alleging she was killed by her husband while the two were out hiking during a holiday in Tasmania.
She was the 13th woman to be allegedly killed by her husband or partner since January 1, 2015.
If this continues for the rest of the year, 104 women will die as a result of domestic violence.
Alarmingly, this increased figure for 2015 is not an anomaly. It is in line with a well-documented trend of domestic violence incidents and homicides increasing steadily in recent decades in Australia.
The murder rate in Australia has been falling for several years. But alongside it, the rate of domestic violence related homicides has been rising. This means that the women killed by their partners are representing a larger and larger percentage of all Australians killed with every passing year.
Based on recent Australian crime statistics, if the current rate of domestic violence deaths for 2015 persists, those 104 women will make up approximately half of all homicide victims in Australia this year.
Paul Linossier, CEO of anti-domestic violence organisation Our Watch says witnessing an increase in domestic violence fatalities at the same time as murder rates hit an all-time low is particularly worrying.
“We need to understand the dimensions of this issue — 13 women are reported to have been murdered by their partner in only seven weeks. Forget ‘one woman a week is murdered by a current or former partner’ — it’s two,” he said.
Based on the new two women per week statistic, Our Watch is calling for domestic violence to be treated as a national emergency.
“All governments must both strengthen direct services and to scale up prevention across the country.”
Earlier this month, Australian of the Year Rosie Batty warned that the “one woman per week” statistic is becoming increasingly outdated as numbers rise.
“It’s almost approaching two women a week now,” she said.
“What needs to happen is strong leadership and investment in family violence because it’s not going to go away, and it will continue to escalate and get worse if we don’t do something.”
Batty has made the same point again and again in recent weeks: Ending domestic violence requires real, decisive action.
It is fantastic that people are discussing family violence openly – in times gone by it was a complete taboo – but those discussions need to be followed by action. The fact is whilst we have all been citing the “one woman per week” statistic, the number of women being killed by their partners has been rising.
In 2015, there are more women than ever in Australia whose lives are in danger every day that we refuse to take decisive action to stop domestic violence. The time for discussion is over. It’s time to act.