“Acts of violence to women aged between 15 and 44 across the globe produce more deaths, disability and mutilation than cancer, malaria and traffic accidents combined.”
This statistic, quoted in Elaine Storkey’s Scars Across Humanity, shocked me more than any other I have heard as our community has discussed domestic and family violence over the last few years.
It’s not just globally that this occurs. In Australia, intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and ill-health in women aged 15-44 (White Ribbon Australia). By now we’ve all heard that more than one woman is killed every week by an existing or former intimate partner (ANROW). This is the horrific and tragic tip of the iceberg. Australian police deal with 657 domestic violence incidents every day of the year (ABC News). That’s one every two minutes. And remember, most incidents go unreported.
As I’ve been learning more about this, I’ve discovered that are dramatic differences between men’s and women’s experiences of violence. About one in two men will be subject to an act of violence at some point during their adult years (ANROW). This is most likely to occur outside the home and be at the hands of a stranger – e.g. fight in the pub or pushing and shoving at a fully match. It is also likely to occur just once. One in three women will experience violence during the course of their adult years and for the majority of them this will occur in the home. One in six will be subject to physical violence at the hands of an existing or former intimate partner. And because it’s violence within a relationship and within the home it is more likely to involve repeated acts of violence. (ANROW) It is terribly sobering to realise that the place a woman is least safe in Australia is in her own home.
As this issue has been raised in my church and my denomination, I have heard substantial numbers of women quietly acknowledging violence has been part of their story. I have met survivors who may feel brittle but display incredible depths of strength. I have been reminded once more that women’s voices and interests need to be heard. And I am now perhaps more acutely aware than ever that we need to change our images of masculinity.
(f you belong to a church I am coordinating a campaign to help churches explore domestic violence, equip themselves to respond, and make changes to their culture. Details can be found at noplaceforviolence.com. Common Grace also has excellent resources available)