It’s the silent hell that kills one woman every week and injures hundreds of thousands more from all Australian communities.
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Domestic violence is the most common type of violence against women and one which will come under the crosshairs this week as survivor Rosie Batty takes the stand at a coronial inquest into her son Luke’s death.
Ms Batty had taken out an intervention order against her former partner Greg Anderson 18 months before he murdered her son in February.
Describing it was “the worst time in her life”, she told SBS that greater intervention by authorities could have made the difference between life and death for her family.
Listen: Rosie Batty speaks to Stephanie Anderson.
“The onus was on me to take out intervention orders, to have those variations to the orders put through, to keep Luke safe,” she said.
“You are a five foot three woman doing the best she can and really that’s it. You’ve got a little piece of paper that you’ve battled to get, that everyone hopes keeps you safe.”
More than one million Australians affected
Ms Batty is far from alone in her experiences of domestic violence, as one in more than one million reported victims.
The most recent survey undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 16.9 per cent of Australian women - or more than 1.47 million - had experienced some physical form of domestic violence since the age of 15.
The survey, which did not include violence committed by any partners that the victim wasn’t living with, also found that more than 1.36 million women had suffered sexual domestic violence over the same period.
Similar research undertaken in 2005 found that people who reported domestic violence committed by a current partner were more likely to experience physical, rather than sexual, violence.
Domestic violence an ‘epidemic’
Senator Larissa Waters, one of the six politicians heading up a national inquiry examining the prevalence and impact of domestic violence, described the rate of violence as a huge concern.
The Greens Senator told SBS she hoped the inquiry would “shake people out of their comfort zones”.
“This is an epidemic in Australia,” she said.
“If it was any other situation, if it was people dying in these great numbers on public transport for heaven’s sake, there would be a massive policy response.”
The inquiry, which has already attracted more than 150 submissions from the likes of Rosie Batty and former NSW MP Alan Corbett, also aims to examine the factors contributing to domestic violence.
According to clinical psychologist Karen Weiss, the triggers for perpetrators engaging in domestic violence vary widely.
The former head of the “No To Violence” domestic violence prevention association told SBS that there was no “one size fits all situation” leading to incidents of domestic violence.
“The men that use violence can do so due to bad upbringing and gender socialisation that enables a kind of patriarchal response to women, sometimes even ideas of women that would be better suited to the 1950s,” she said.
“… There are also men that suffer pretty severe mental health problems. They may go on untreated or unidentified. These men can also use violence as a result of underlying mental health conditions.
“There’s also another group that we might call more criminally inclined – sociopathic or antisocial who use violence across the board in their everyday life, not just against women.”
‘To empower women, we need to educate men’
Dr Weiss said increased mental health support would address domestic violence triggers to some extent, however survivors such as Lisa Bonavita believe that education is key to changing attitudes.
Ms Bonavita, speaking to SBS under a pseudonym, said that “to empower women, we need to educate men”.
“We’re in a society that tells them it’s ok,” she said.
“There needs to be better education… We need to go back to the beginning, children need to be educated.”
Attitudes towards domestic violence were examined in survey issued last month, stating that the majority of Australians believed that domestic violence was a criminal offence, despite one in five believing it could be excused if the offender regrets their actions.
Results of the national survey of 17,500 people conducted by VicHealth also found that one in five Australians believed domestic violence could be excused if people get so angry they lose control.
Almost one in 10 believed it was a woman’s duty to stay in a violent relationship to keep the family together.
The results of the survey coincide with numerous headlines relating to domestic violence and Australia’s attitudes towards such violence.
Max MacKinnon, one half of Australian hip-hop duo Bliss N Eso, achieved notoriety last month after posting photos of himself depicting domestic violence.
One image showed him holding a clenched fist to singer and domestic violence victim Rihanna with the caption "Where did ya throw those f---ing car keys woman!?! #smackmybitch #shelovesthewayithurts”.
More recently, domestic violence has hit the headlines with the murder/suicide of a Brisbane chef and his transgender partner.
The Senate inquiry into domestic violence will host a number of public hearings, the second of which will be held in Canberra on Wednesday, before lodging a report early next year.