By Samantha Henderson

25 November 2020

Women’s rights activists have observed 25 November as a day against gender-based violence since 1981. The date was selected to honour the Mirabel sisters, three (3) political activists from the Dominican Republic who were brutally murdered in 1960 by order of the country’s ruler at the time, Rafael Trujillo.

On 7 February 2000, the General Assembly of the United Nations officially designated 25 November 2020 as the International Day for the Elimination  of Violence against Women and invited international governments, organisations, NGOs and people to join together in recognition of this important issue, raise public awareness and, hopefully, reduce the incidents of violence against women around the world.

 

In 2013, the World Health Organisation published a global study that recorded that at least 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse, and concerningly, in some national studies, up to 70% of women experience physical and/or sexual abuse from an intimate partner or spouse at some point in their life.

 

Closer to home, in July 2020, the Australian Institute of Criminology published Statistical Bulletin 28 which found:

  • 4.2% of all women and 8.2% of women in cohabiting relationships experienced physical violence;
  • 2.2% of all women and 4.2% of women in cohabiting relationships experienced sexual violence;
  • 11.6% of all women and 22.4% of women in cohabiting relationships experienced emotionally abusive, harassing and controlling behaviours; and
  • 6.8% of all women, and 13.2% of women in cohabiting relationships, experienced physical violence, sexual violence or coercive control in the three months prior to the survey.

 

Unfortunately, during 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, the strict measures taken to control the virus have resulted in a worldwide increase in incidents of family violence. This only makes it that much more important to pause for a minute on 25 November 2020, consider the experiences of women around the world, and in our own communities, and think about what we can do as a community, and as individuals, to improve our societies, and the safety of women and girls.

 

However, there are positives, as a society we are seeing a shift in attitudes, and the Australian National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, an initiative of the Council of Australian Governments (see https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/08_2014/national_plan_accessible.pdf) recorded that “Nearly all Australians (98 per cent) recognise that violence against women and their children is a crime.”

 

If you are suffering from family violence, or know of anyone that is, or may be, suffering from family violence, we cannot stress how important it is for you to reach out and seek help. If you are seriously concerned for the immediate safety of yourself, your family, or someone you know, you should contact the Police by dialing 000 and seek their assistance and protection.

 

Additional support services in Victoria include Safe Steps, who can be contacted 24 / 7 on 1800 015 188 and the ‘The Orange Door’ program, which is a free government support service for people suffering from family violence.

 

For more information, please contact our family law team.

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