An old South African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. Our community, our country, is facing a dire social problem that must be eradicated; domestic violence.
Violence is not normal and it is never OK.
Violence and abuse against a partner, ex-partner or family member continues to be one of the most prevalent human rights violations in our beloved city and country. It is happening to people you know, by people you know and, for at least one in four people, it is happening to them.
Last year, 71 women in Australia were murdered by a partner or ex-partner, and about 2900 cases of family violence were reported to police in the Hunter. We know that one in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and while we understand that men also experience family violence, the numbers are harder to measure. Family violence is a significant social problem which is ultimately preventable.
Change begins when we speak up and say that we will not accept the current situation. However, and perhaps more importantly, change happens when we stand together to say we will not tolerate violence. If we want change to be far-reaching and permanent, we must tackle the problem together.
Fifty years ago, domestic violence was something whispered about, often tolerated and, in the Archives of General Psychiatry, even encouraged.
Unfortunately, people are still reluctant to talk about family violence, especially those who have experienced it first-hand. There are many reasons why, including embarrassment, fear of retribution and shame.
Last year, the Got Your Back Sista charity was created. Our initial focus was to help people who were escaping domestic violence, by working in collaboration with refuges and services, to provide them with vouchers and store credits to buy items as part of the establishment of a new and safe home for themselves and their children. Items included beds, refrigerators, and kitchen appliances. The organisation has to date provided more than $53,000 in support to local women.
In 2017, this support was extended and, with the help of many local businesses, the charity now provides programs that help women gain the confidence, support and skills they need to be happy, obtain employment and thrive. The Rise Up and Thrive program comprises workshops, mentoring, re-skilling (if needed) and work experience. But mostly it is about creating a support network around them.
Our aim is to help people who need support now, but our ultimate aim is to stop the incidence of abuse and violence in our community. To do this, we need to be the advocates for those people who, for whatever reason, are silenced. We need to end the silence for them. We need to unite and say no to domestic violence and, in so doing, we also support people to ask for help.
There is no better time to stand together and make this critical change a reality.
On Saturday at half-time in the nib Newcastle Knights vs New Zealand Warriors game, about 250 people from the community will lead a call on the field to ‘say NO to domestic violence’ and ‘YES to ending the silence’. Join us, but if you are unable, then please start a conversation.
You might very well help someone close to you.