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This week, Lucy shone a spotlight on the issue of domestic violence, reinforcing how important it is for us to remove the stigma and expose it for what it is.
Thirty four years ago, my mum was asked to give a speech for ANZAC day at her school. She used this opportunity to talk about the horrors of women raped in war. However, she was criticised by the alumnae of her school for publicly talking about issues which were at that time, considered to be radical and a taboo in society. I am fortunate today to be given a platform to talk freely about an issue which is currently considered a taboo within our society. However, this issue which has been supressed by stigma is also an issue which contributes to almost half of homicides in each state. Domestic violence is an example of how our legal system has failed us as females.
I am not standing here today talking about domestic violence as someone who is able to relate or share personal experiences. However, my luck has nothing to do with my socio-economic position, nor my geographical location. We must all understand that domestic violence does not discriminate. Although rates of domestic violence are reportedly higher in rural areas, this does not take away from the fact that 1 in 4 women are subject to violence, regardless of income or intelligence.
Rosie Batty, who was Australian of the year in 2015, made this point so powerfully after her 11-year-old son Luke was murdered by his father. It is so important that as young women, we understand that victims of domestic violence are not responsible. Regardless of how strong or weak someone may be, they are suffering at the hands of an abusive partner. Many survivors of domestic violence blame themselves. This might seem strange, but the attitudes that allow a person to feel it is their fault develop when we are young women. I’m sure all of you sitting here today can remember a time a boy has said something sexist or offensive and you’ve remained silent. This may come from fear of how they may think or judge you if you challenge them. I am known for being outspoken and having an opinion, but I am the first to admit that I’ve sacrificed being true to myself and my beliefs for fear of being judged by my guy friends.
Domestic violence is a war that 1 in 4 women across Australia are fighting. This is why it’s so important we change the way we interact with boys from a young age. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that by challenging for example, a Year 9 Shore boy’s sexist opinion of girls is the solution to stopping the brutal violence against women. What I am saying is that in the same way the attitudes we develop at school will help us to become Renaissance Women, the attitudes that boys develop at school will determine how they interact with us as Renaissance Women. We have a responsibility to become strong women and we have a responsibility to help the boys around us become good men.
So that’s the personal, but what about the political? Our government allocates money in strange ways. In Australia in 2018, 63 women were murdered by current or former partners. In the same year, two people died as a result of terrorist attacks. However, in the 2017-2018 Federal Budget, $55 million was allocated to stop terrorist deaths – which is almost the same amount at the $54 million allocated to protecting women from domestic violence. That is 30 times more money spent per person to prevent deaths from terrorism than deaths from domestic violence.
Regardless of these figures, some politicians are making a difference. Thirty four years after my mum was criticised for talking about rape in war at Canberra Girls’ Grammar, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Julie Bishop gave a speech at the UN about the horrors of rape in war. She was congratulated for talking about such an important topic that had been ignored for so long.
The point about domestic violence is that women do not need to be involved in a war to be killed. 75% of all acts of domestic violence are directed against women aged between 18 to 24. That is some of the people in this room now - and all of the people in this room in a few years. It’s our job as women, citizens and as human beings to remove the stigma associated with domestic abuse and expose it for what it is.
We are so fortunate to be able to go to a school where these issues are spoken about and addressed, but if we just sit back and cross our fingers, hoping that we won’t be one of the unlucky ones, there will be no change. So please, I beg you, don’t choose to avoid an awkward conversation, or stay with someone who doesn’t treat you like you deserve to be treated. No one here should have to live in fear or suffer like many women before us have.
Lucy (Year 12)