Presented at Ending Domestic Violence conference, Sydney Boulevard Hotel, 11 June 2015

Policy Advisor, Rik Sutherland, presented a speech to the Ending Domestic Violence Conference in Sydney outlining Vinnies services and advocacy in this area.

The majority of those assisted are women. This paper discusses the deep causes of domestic violence, and how these might be addressed in practice. One place to begin is with the statistics. In 2006, based on self-reporting, the ABS estimated that nearly 100,000 Australians, from all backgrounds and walks of life, experienced domestic violence in some form. This included assault and homicide, and also sexual, psychological, and social abuse from an intimate partner. However, there is good reason to think that the official ABS statistics are under reported: In Victoria alone, police were called out to 65,393 domestic violence incidents in 2013–14 and police estimate they only get called out to 40–50% of cases. Moreover, caseworkers tell us that the definition of violence that we use doesn’t always capture some types of trauma violence from carers, and violence from colleagues, including sexual violence.

While we have come a long way, there is clearly still far to go. Two women dying a week because of choice by men in their lives to kill is something we will never accept. But, what I have argued is that domestic violence is really just the tip of the iceberg – with its roots in a cultural celebration of violence, disempowerment of women – particularly those from certain backgrounds – and strict gender stereotyping. Men’s violence will not stop against their female partners, or against children, their parents, their male partners, or strangers in the street, until we have a cultural shift in our attitudes to gender power, and violence. This struggle is enormous – but it also reveals that those concerned with domestic violence do not stand alone. Our work is thus intimately tied to, and we must stand in solidarity with, those battling for gender equality, including equal pay and representation, people who fight to break down gender stereotypes at all levels, and the movement to confront Australia’s celebration of some varieties of ‘masculine’ violence. It will take a long time for this deep cultural change to flow into the eradication of all male violence against female partners. But, given the progress over the last century on gender equality, the steps over the last 30 years in understanding domestic violence, and political moment we find we suddenly have in 2015, it is truly exciting to be part of the change.