A Single Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women Isn’t Enough. Here’s What The Experts Want

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At least half of all women in Australia have experienced sexual harassment, abuse or violence. That’s 1 in 2 that has been sexually harassed, 1 in 3 that has been physically abused and 1 in 5 that has been sexually abused. Let that sink in. With #FiredUp, Refinery29 Australia makes an ongoing commitment to spotlighting this serious and pervasive issue with the goal of dismantling gendered violence in Australia.
Content warning: This article discusses domestic and sexual violence in a way that may be distressing to some readers.
Violence against women is a widespread issue in Australia. On average, 1 woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner and 1 in 3 women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the start of UN Women’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
In order to prevent gender-based violence, there needs to be greater education around what it looks like.
According to the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, "Violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that causes or could cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of harm or coercion, in public or in private life."
This year Our Watch – an organisation advocating for the prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia – has launched  the second edition of Change The Story, an evidence-based framework that guides a coordinated national approach to preventing violence against women.    
Change The Story emphasises the need for structural change, looking at the broader social, political, and economic factors that drive violence. 
This includes the improvement of government policies, better education in schools and a greater understanding of gendered drivers of violence; i.e. the connection between toxic masculinity, gender inequality and violence against women. The campaign highlights the need to engage men in prevention work.
"The research shows that some men’s rigid attachment to the idea that they must be in control, tough, aggressive and suppress their emotions, is not only harmful to men but is also harmful to women," Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said in a statement provided to Refinery29 Australia.
"We have a tremendous opportunity to ensure that all our prevention activities address these ideas about what is to be a man and engage men and boys to not only call out disrespect towards women but to act when women are underrepresented in the media, in the workplace , and in leadership positions."
Our Watch also recommends an intersectional approach in addressing violence against women, by also addressing other forms of discrimination such as racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, and colonialism.     
From November 25 to December 10, many frontline support services in Australia and around the world will be participating in the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. This year's theme is “Orange the world: End violence against women now!”
In light of this, various experts have weighed in on the importance of the government considering how COVID-19 has impacted gendered violence when devising new policies and allocating funding.
Results of a Queensland University of Technology Centre study released in June revealed an increase in demand for support from domestic family violence (DVF) agencies post COVID. The findings were based on a survey of 362 DVF agencies and individuals across Australia from early June until the end of August 2020.
"The issue that is already emerging is the need for people experiencing family and domestic violence to be able to seek help through any service doorway, given that so many services were overwhelmed during this time," Elena Campbell, Associate Director of Research, Advocacy and Policy at RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice, said in a statement provided to Refinery29 Australia.
“This requires a huge up-skilling across the human service sector and a consistent understanding of family and domestic violence risk across different service contexts."
Associate Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Director of Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention, called for "national leadership and demonstrated commitment to ensuring the safety of Australian women and freedom from violence" and highlighted the need for workplaces to do their part in awareness and prevention.
"Federal and state governments must prioritise women's safety from violence as Australia moves into the next COVID 'normal' phase," she said.
"There is a key role for workplaces to play in eliminating workplace violence against women and in supporting the economic security of domestic and family violence victim-survivors."
From listening to a panel to raising awareness on social media, there are many ways in which we can participate in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. But the issue of violence against women won't disappear in a fortnight, so let's expand our attention to this issue for all 365 days of the year.
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual or domestic violence and is in need of support, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Service
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