THE dead body of another Hunter woman discovered brutally murdered this week, brings the total to three in six months.
Police are investigating possible drug links in the gruesome killing of young mother Danielle Easey, whose body was found wrapped in plastic floating in Cockle Creek on the weekend.
According to Destroy the Joint, which tracks Australian women who die from violence, Ms Easey was the 37th victim this year.
In the same week as her body was found, homicide detectives launched a public appeal for information surrounding the death of Newcastle's Cecilia Devine, whose skeletal remains were discovered in remote bushland at North Katoomba on March 18.
She was first reported missing eight months earlier from Waratah in September last year.
Ms Devine's body was found just days after Gabriella Thompson, a young Lake Macquarie mother, was brutally stabbed to death by her ex-partner Tafari Walton at Glendale.
Walton, who served more than two years in jail for a siege and firearm offences in 2016, was shot dead by police less than 24 hours after he had brutally murdered Ms Thompson, the mother of his child.
Horrific and senseless crimes of violence that took the lives of three young Hunter women in a matter of months. Women who had futures.
In the past six years, police have launched murder investigations in relation to the violent deaths of nine Hunter women.
Raymond Terrace grandmother Janice "Jan" Garrett was murdered in a house fire in July last year.
Her partner Ronald John Reeves, 70, was charged with the domestic violence-related murder, but was found unconscious in his cell at Goulburn Correctional Centre in April and died a few weeks later.
Yvonne Parkes, 67, was stabbed to death by her alcoholic husband Robert Cadman at Toronto in December 2016. Cadman was sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in jail, with a non-parole period of 14 years.
In a crime that sent shockwaves through the region, Maitland mother Molly Goodbun was shot dead by her estranged husband Keith Owen Goodbun, 62, on October 7, 2016, in their former marital home.
He was jailed for at least 31 years for the "coldly rational", cruel and premeditated murder.
Justice Helen Wilson described the murder as "chilling and deeply-shocking". "It may, without hyperbole, be described as an execution," she said.
Carly McBride, 31, disappeared from Muswellbrook after visiting her children in September 2014. Her body was found almost two years later.
Aged care worker Renee Mitchell was cooking for her family when she was taken from her own kitchen and stabbed to death at Windale in 2014. Graham Anthony George Sloane, a two-time killer, was sentenced to a maximum of 24 years in jail, with a non-parole period of 18 years.
Marika Ninness, 35, died in hospital 13 days after she suffered severe head injuries when she was punched to the ground by her boyfriend Ross Merrick in a car park in East Maitland in December, 2013.
Newcastle-based Victims of Crime Assistance League (VOCAL) chief executive Kerrie Thompson said the "heartbreaking" cases highlighted the reality of an "epidemic of violence against women".
Since July last year, the support service has seen a 42 per cent increase in the number of women seeking help for violent crimes.
Added to this has been a 70 per cent increase in women and children seeking help for sexual offences and a 40 per cent increase in reported domestic violence assaults.
"For children, the youngest girl within the past 12 months was only six," Ms Thompson said.
"There is an ingrained belief in many male dominated circles in society that women are of lesser social value, and those attitudes and values is why we continue to see violence against women."
In the wake of these high-profile crimes against Hunter women and ensuing community outrage, Ms Thompson said it was time to get serious about tackling the problem.
She said early education was crucial to change cultural attitudes about violence against women, and that without a shift in the way we educate boys, we simply will not see the situation change.
"We need early education for young people on what is safe relationships and we need to encourage people to reach out for help," she said. "There also needs to be more resources into agencies like the police and other support agencies so when people do reach out there is not a waiting list."
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), one in three Australian women experience physical violence, while one in five experience sexual violence.
The fourth stage of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children was issued by the federal government last month.
It details that the prevalence of men's violence against women is expected to remain unchanged for at least a decade, decreasing in the "long term", which was defined as "10 plus years".
Ms Thompson said victims could not afford to wait ten years for change because too many women would be dead.
Last year, 71 women were killed by violence in Australia.
"It's heartbreaking, there is no other way to describe it," she said. "Violence against women is a crime of power and control and many women experience vulnerability, fear and anxiety when they go out at night, or when they are home alone."
Peter Hallett, who sister Melissa Hunt was murdered 25 years ago in the Hunter, called for immediate action.
Ms Hunt's brutally-battered body was discovered floating in Burrenjim Dam, near Seahampton, on Anzac Day, 1994.
Despite a person of interest being named during a coronial inquest in the late 1990s, no-one has ever been charged with her murder.
The State Crime Command's Unsolved Homicide Unit confirmed in July it was reviewing the case and re-testing evidence collected from the scene.
Mr Hallett said his heart went out to Ms Easey's family, after she was found murdered on the weekend in "distressingly similar" circumstances to his sister.
"It's an absolute shocking thing to hear that this has happened," he said.
"It's the worst thing you can imagine losing a family member in such horrific circumstances. No-one should ever have to go through it."
Mr Hallett said a combination of law and order, justice and education reforms were needed to address the complex issue of violence against women.
To start, teaching respect for girls at an early age in school, could lead to change and he believed the move would be supported by men and women because of widespread concern about violence.
He said society shouldn't shy away from taking a clear public stand against violence, and educating people to help prevent it.
"Obviously we cannot afford to entertain negative views of women, it's just not on," he said.
Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison, a former shadow minister for women, said respectful relationships should be introduced in the school curriculum from kindergarten.
"There is a lack of preparedness for people," she said. "The key is prevention and support for victims and survivors.
"We also need to rely on people to stand up and say something when they see something disrespectful happening."
Ms Aitchison said taking drugs or drinking alcohol was no excuse for violence against women.
In 2014, a Supreme Court jury found Hamilton South man Michael Bruce Clarke guilty of murdering 55-year-old Deborah Wolfgram inside his Fowler Street unit after a night of drinking.
Outside the court Ms Wolfgram's younger brother Gregory Wolfgram said if people drink or take drugs "they have to take responsibility for it".
"Just like if you were drink driving in a car and you killed someone they wouldn't let you off because you were drunk," he said.
The Newcastle Herald reported last year that every day in the Hunter eleven females are victims of assaults reported to police.
In the five years to March 2018, almost 21,000 women and girls in the Hunter were victims of reported violent attacks. More than half were domestic violence.
In 2012, a coroner found that Gavin Cook suffocated his partner Felicity Bundock before shooting himself in their Waratah West home.
Tragically, Mrs Bundock was seeking counselling for domestic violence when she was murdered.
Deputy State Coroner Mark Buscombe described the case as "a great human tragedy".
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