Last week, Gold Coast woman Tara Brown contacted local police for advice about her relationship breakdown. Six days later, she was dead. The circumstances are horrifying.

On the same morning, not far away in Helensvale, another woman was shot dead in a fast food restaurant.

And on the same day, just a short drive up the M1 in Wacol, a woman was hospitalised under circumstances eerily similar to Tara’s.

Three women brutally attacked in two days. Two paid the ultimate price.  In all three cases, their attackers were allegedly the women’s former partners.

62 women (as of 10 September 2015) are dead in Australia this year at the hands of their former partners. This year, an average of two women a week have been murdered.

It is now time to get people in positions of authority to actually do something about domestic violence. We encourage women not to stay in abusive relationships, but where can they go? Where can they hide? Why should they hide? Why are they paying for their choice to leave – with their lives?

Women’s voices need to be heard. We’re shouting from the grassroots, but without representatives in positions of power such as the legislature assemblies and judiciary, it’s a muffle. Without those in a position to help, our voices are white noise.

Change can happen when our community leaders have the courage – and also when they are forced to act.  After the death of her mother by suicide, a 14 year old girl wrote to the New South Wales government and asked them to “educate children about domestic violence and how to seek help”. In her letters to politicians and her petition on change.org, she explained how she had no idea that being bashed by her father, and seeing him beat her mother, was not the norm for everyone else. And in doing so, she instigated a major change in the secondary school syllabus that will focus on domestic violence prevention.

When you share posts about domestic violence on social media, pledge to do more than merely being a social media activist.

Write to your State Member of Parliament.  Write to your Federal Member of Parliament. Ask them what they are doing to support an end to domestic violence.  When you share posts about domestic violence on social media, pledge to do more than merely being a social media activist. Don’t just click that “Like” or retweet that tweet, do something about it. Support foundations such as White Ribbon and Our Watch. Be active, rather than passive.

Both women and men can challenge attitudes and beliefs that promote a culture of violence and victim-blaming or shaming. Speak up! Hold the abusive person, not the victims, accountable for the abusive behaviour.

We as a society need to stop passively encouraging this violence against women. Many of us brush these incidents aside. We consider relationship violence as none of our business because it happens in private, or we think that there’s nothing we can do to help. But by our silence and inaction, we are allowing this violence to thrive. We need to be accountable.

But by our silence and inaction, we are allowing this violence to thrive. We need to be accountable.

Where are the male champions of change in the domestic violence arena? Just as women need men advocating for gender equity in the workplace, we need men to invite men to reflect on abusive and controlling behaviours. We need to focus on respectful relationships. We need to actively teach our sons and daughters how a respectful relationship works.  Our Watch is working with secondary schools is Victoria to support and teach teenagers skills in building respectful and healthy relationships, but how can you reinforce that in your own home?

Men – call out that friend who catcalls women. Make it clear that even small abuses of respect are not acceptable. Let them know you think it’s wrong without getting aggressive or confrontational about it.

Men – call out that friend who catcalls women. Make it clear that even small abuses of respect are not acceptable.

Every single one of us can act if someone we know behaves in a controlling manner towards their partner. You know the warning signs – checking up on her all the time, criticising how she dresses, monitoring her friendships. Being jealous and controlling are not signs of love, but violence.

Domestic violence knows no social barrier. Women are not chattels, to be bent to your will by any means necessary. We’re your mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, wives, partners, aunts. We’re your equals. What will you do about it?

 

If you or someone you know is suffering from sexual or domestic abuse, call 1800 RESPECT any time of day or night.

If you or someone you know is causing domestic abuse, call The Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491


It’s a sad fact that according to the White Ribbon report, about 40% of Australian women will be the victims of violence at some point in their lifetime. But for many women, escaping the situation isn’t as simple as walking out the door. Many fear for their personal safety, and in this day and age where the internet is a treasure trove of information, staying hidden or under the radar isn’t as safe as it once was.

Here are five tips to help you, or someone you know, protect themselves online. These tips are from Telstra’s Safe Connections program, a partnership with the Women’s Services Network (WESNET) to help women impacted by domestic violence to stay safely connected.

1.     Always turn location/GPS and Bluetooth off on your phone

It’s easy to forget that most smartphones have a GPS feature that can pinpoint your exact location. Someone who’s previously had access to your phone can use apps that send this GPS location to their phone, so they always know where you are.

With Bluetooth, it’s possible for someone with previous access to use a Bluetooth connection to access your phone. This can include access to your SMSes, call  history, contacts, and even photos. The safest way is to keep it turned off.

2.     Change your passwords regularly

Whether it’s your phone, Facebook, online banking, or your laptop, to name a few – if it has a password, ensure it’s changed every month, or even every week. Yes, it does make passwords a pain to remember, but it also ensures that your abuser doesn’t have access to any of your private information.

3.     Create a separate email account for safety planning and legal communication

If you’re talking to a lawyer, a victim advocate such as someone at WESNET, or even to a friend about your escape plan, do not use your regular email. Set up a separate email account on a computer that your abuser doesn’t have access to, and only check that email account from the safe computer.

Don’t assume that just because you’ve changed your password for your normal email account, your abuser can’t access it. Your password may not be as secret as you think, or they might find another way to access it through your tablet or phone, for example. Play it safe, and use a new, different email account they’re not aware of.

4.     Adjust your children’s and your own privacy settings on devices and social media

Just because you’ve unfriended your abuser on Facebook doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to see your posts. It’s as simple as them getting access to one of your friends’ accounts, and they can see everything once more.

Facebook now has options to choose who can post on your wall, and who can see what’s posted on your wall. Go through all the privacy settings for the social media you use, and ensure that friends and family can’t accidentally reveal or provide clues to your location with a seemingly innocent comment.

Same with your children – have a discussion with them about what they can and can’t say online, as well as when and how the other parent is allowed to communicate with them. Then keep a close eye on their social media accounts, regardless.

5.     Document all threats

Even if you think your phone or computer is being accessed or watched, don’t simply throw it out or abandon it. You need to ensure you have a record of all threats that have been made against you, so you can take them to the police, your lawyer, or a community legal service to have them documented as evidence.

There are many programs that can back up texts. You should also take screenshots or print your call history. Many phones these days also allow you to record phone calls, though that’s getting into slightly murkier legal territory. You’ll need to get legal advice to determine if you can use such recordings as formal evidence.

 

These are just some simple ways to protect yourself online. But most importantly, trying to deal with violence and abuse on your own can be very dangerous. If you are in such a situation, always work with a domestic violence or sexual assault support worker to help you plan for your safety, and always call 000 in an emergency.

If you, or someone you know, needs help with domestic violence, abuse or sexual assault, you can call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for support and assistance. You can also access online counseling at www.1800respect.org.au.