news

'We're letting DV survivors down. I know: My mum was one.'

Domestic violence is a very personal issue for me.

I grew up in it. All these years later the scars are still there and the wounds can be opened easily.

I can’t imagine how my mum must have felt.

Domestic violence affected me so much I used to wet the bed, live in fear and be nervous all the time. I was a run-amok child who didn’t care for much in the world. Mischief became my best friend.

Like most kids who grow up in violence, I turned to drugs, alcohol and risk-taking to fill the void. That didn’t work out too well for me. I spent my thirteenth birthday in jail.

Years later, I got into film and wrote about the first thing I ever remembered as a child: My mum getting beaten by my dad. I remember it like it was yesterday: the screams, the pain, the blood.

The film was called Mah and the only reason I made that film was to let my mum know I never forgot what she went through, and to teach my boys where I have come from. It was a way for me to heal and deal with the issues that haunted me as boy trying to become a man.

Australian of the Year Rosie Batty

The 2015 Australian of the Year is Rosie Batty, who lost her son to domestic violence. As a result, 2015 has been a year for family and domestic violence awareness. But then is it so that we are seeing an increase in the level of violence against women?

I believe ice addiction is one factor. The case of Colleen Tae Ford is a testament to that. Two months before her eighteenth birthday Ms Ford was murdered by her boyfriend Rodney Kevin Corbett in a “sustained attack” of 172 blows. She lost her unborn child after he beat her and punched at her stomach in an ice-induced rage.

How can society improve when we have politicians such as NT Attorney General John Elferink saying that he wanted to slap a female member of parliament? (Nine female members of parliament called for his sacking, only for his controversial colleague David Tollner to tell them: “Toughen up princess”.)

What message are we sending to young boys?

What message does this send to young boys across the country?

I often draw parallels with friends and colleagues, about family and domestic victims going through the same thing as soldiers in a war zone. But effects in children and women growing up in violence, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), are rarely mentioned.

The impact of family and domestic violence on women and children in terms of mental health, I believe, is understated and not reported enough in the mainstream media. Maybe most journalists haven’t been through it, a general statement, yes – but I can’t help it, I view the world through an Aboriginal lens and so I inherently ask questions of the majority.

Domestic violence isn’t an issue of race, it’s a global issue of violence against women. Let’s make this issue perfectly clear.

All races and cultures suffer from this weakness; perpetrators are all colours and are both rich and poor. It’s not an Aboriginal issue, it’s an Australian issue.

ADVERTISEMENT

On Tuesday I wrote on my Facebook page:

“I think we have our priorities wrong Australia. When Aussie Cricketer Phillip Hughes died on 63 not out, the whole world stopped. Why aren’t we stopping for domestic violence, with three months left to go in the year what will this number end up being? And will Australia be shocked or will we just continue to shrug our shoulders and hope the problem goes away?”

And, if reports of another death as a result of violence against women are correct, the number on Wednesday became 64 – with three deaths in just three days in NSW alone.

What’s more, we only read about the fatalities: how many women and children are in abusive relationships? What about the thousands of women out there who are slowly dying on the inside, whether it is physical, verbal or mental abuse?

“I fear what the death toll will end up being by December.”

The number of comments and stories I have received is telling me how much we underplay this issue.

I have been commenting on domestic violence lately mostly via my Facebook account, and the number of comments and stories I have received is telling me how much we underplay this issue.

To me, it is Australia’s greatest threat to national security since 1788. It tears at the very heart of families, it destroys lives and communities.

And yet mainstream Australia is so concerned with the crude peddling of Islamophobia that it forgets that our mothers, sisters and daughters are dying.

I fear what the death toll will be by December.

A friend reminded me recently of the impact domestic violence has on a person’s self-esteem, confidence, trust, relationships and the ability to heal the human spirit. It’s a long hard road to recovery and any woman or child going through that journey should be applauded, supported and loved – in my view, they are casualties of war, and my heroes. They really are.

“That’s so true Malcolm, but will a real prime minister reinstate women’s shelters, refuges and legal services that were so ruthlessly cut in the last budget?”

Newly instated Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in one of his first interviews that “real men don’t hit women.”

That’s so true Malcolm, but will a real Prime Minister reinstate women’s shelters, refuges and legal services that were so ruthlessly cut in the last budget? Anyone can talk the talk, but when will we see the government walk the walk?

That’s on you, Prime Minister.

Will a real Prime Minister reinstate women’s shelters, refuges and legal services that were so ruthlessly cut in the last budget?

Programs have been cut that provide rehabilitation and healing for perpetrators. If we can’t help those who abuse, do we just let them keep on abusing? Programs on both sides of the issue need to be funded and maintained to ensure the shocking domestic violence rates in the “lucky country” are drastically reduced.

Too many of our women and children are bleeding without support.

It’s time we stood up as a nation, all colours, all cultures to say #EnoughBlood.

This post originally appeared on SBS.com.au and has been republished with permission.

00:00 / ???