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The domestic violence debate Australia needed to have

Last night, the ABC’s Q&A hosted arguably one of the most important discussions on the issue of domestic violence in Australia.

Rosie Batty, the 2015 Australian of the Year, recognised for her work in this area after her son was murdered by her ex-husband, sat on the panel of five to discuss the issue of family violence in the country.

Also on the panel were Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, Simon Santosha, the managing director of Men and Family Counselling and Consultancy, Victoria Police Acting Chief Commissioner, Tim Cartwright, and local ABC radio broadcaster and campaigner against domestic violence, Charlie King.

“I live in a nice house, I am an independent, single woman, I’m a professional, I’m educated — if it can happen to me, it can happen to everybody,” Batty said, emphasising that domestic violence doesn’t discriminate.

For women watching at home, Batty’s words rang true and many went on to share their own memories of living with domestic violence in the past.

“Violence against women is an emergency, I believe, in Australia… and we need political power to change it,” said Stott Despoja, saying educational systems should be in place to invite and encourage a change in behaviour from men, and that both women and men are so severely stereotyped that it influences their behaviour over time.

Fifty Shades of Grey… [has] done us no favours,” she said. “It is such rigid gender stereotyping that do men and women no favours.”

King went on to agree, saying young boys learn about gender roles through pornography on their phones and devices.

“When 12, 13 and 14-year-olds are watching these images and it’s shaping what they perceive women want, and no-one is telling them otherwise… all they’ve got is their mobile and internet pornography. And that’s truly terrifying.”

Unfortunately, during one of the most important debates about domestic violence, which predominantly focused on how women are overwhelmingly more likely to become victims than men, the minister for women and the prime minister himself, Tony Abbott, were noticeably and unforgivably absent.
Each week, domestic and family violence kills at least one woman or child and a small number of men. But, according to Cartwright, the system doesn’t support victims of domestic violence. It is “archaic” and needs to be changed. With one simple, but powerful, sentence, he received a standing ovation.

“The first thing we need to do is change and believe the woman,” he said. It would have been nice to have heard that coming from the minister for women, or at least have him appear on the panel at all.

Did you tune into last night’s Q&A? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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