Rising levels of domestic violence has experts seeking solutions
The following article appeared in the Courier Mail November 22nd 2018 by Sherele Moody - www.couriermail.com.au
“VIOLENCE against women and children is at a crisis point — complacency is creeping in and it is costing lives.”
She’s spent 30 years working with people who have experienced the worst types of abuse and violence, so it takes a lot to shock Betty Taylor.
Across the country a total of 212 Australians have died as a result of alleged murder or manslaughter in 2018, with male violence accounting for almost 90 per cent of these deaths.
Over the past 12 months, there has been a steep increase in DV deaths compared to last year.
While every murder is shocking, a series of unrelated murder-suicides have highlighted the brutal lengths abusers will go to.
In May, Peter Miles shot his four grandchildren — Ayre, Kayden, Rylan and Taye Cockman — as they slept in their beds at their home in Margaret River. He also killed their mum (his daughter) Katrina and their grandmother (his wife) Cynda before ending his own life.
About eight weeks later, John Edwards used two legally gained high-powered pistols to kill his 13-year-old daughter Jennifer and her 15-year-old brother Jack before killing himself.
Today Australians will take time to remember all women and children lost to violence as they join in the annual White Ribbon Day activities.
Yet, this year’s toll of violence has left experts fearing things will get significantly worse before they get better.
“There are a lot of campaigns — including White Ribbon — that are getting the message out about male violence in Australia,” Ms Taylor says.
“But unless this messaging is backed up by tougher actions from the courts, police and policymakers, we might as well be whistling in the wind.”
Pressure is mounting on authorities to take a no holds barred approach to family abuse perpetrators.
Ideas include throwing abusers in jail as soon as they breach domestic violence orders, forcing perpetrators — not victims — out of the family homes and making offenders wear non-removable ankle bracelets that allow police to trace their movements in real time.
Queensland Police has the ability to keep high-risk perpetrators under constant surveillance, with GPS trackers alerting officers when the abusers approach exclusion zones.
Pushing for national change is David Nugent, who agrees there must be more emphasis on ensuring perpetrators’ ability to cause harm is removed the moment they enter the legal system.
Nugent has been working with violent men for about 20 years. His organisation – The HEAVY M.E.T.A.L Group – runs behaviour change programs that are voluntary and teach violent men to acknowledge their “destructive” habits to break the cycle of abuse. Perpetrators who choose to take part are more likely to change than those forced to attend by courts, he says.
“All of these guys who are going to programs after court are not changing because they are not willing to change their beliefs that minimise violence,” Nugent says.
Both Nugent and Taylor say unless perpetrators fear legal repercussions, they will continue to inflict abuse on their loved ones and victims will die. “If we are giving the message that ‘DV is never OK’ and in the same breathe the courts are just letting people walk, we are saying ‘well actually, DV is OK’.”
David Bradford, 52, murdered Teresa about eight weeks after he was charged with multiple violent offences against the mum-of-four. The shocking and horrid assaults included Bradford taping Teresa’s mouth shut, beating her so severely that she blacked out and dragging her by her hair across a floor.
Bradford was charged on November 28, 2016, and bailed by the Southport Domestic Violence Court on January 12, 2017. Police knew Bradford was a danger to his former wife, but they did not tell her he applied for bail, instead leaving that decision to a DV agency.
On January 31, 19 days after walking out of jail, Bradford broke into Teresa’s home and beat her to death as she slept. He then killed himself.
Narelle says Teresa was offered a place in a refuge but she turned it down, believing she was safe because Bradford “was behind bars” and because she was hoping to find long-term stable accommodation for her and the kids.
“Teresa would be here today if she was offered more than ‘would you like to go to a refuge?’,” Narelle says.
Women falling through the cracks is a massive concern for anti-DV advocates, with Narelle and Taylor lobbying policymakers to move away from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to support for victims.
“Often women have to go to multiple agencies because they have such complex needs – they are not an easy fix and if this is not recognised, they may go back to the abuser or not leave in the first place,” Taylor said.
Smartphone apps helping victims of domestic violence
White Ribbon Australia acting CEO Delia Donovan says there is no doubt services are “failing” Australia’s most vulnerable residents.
“Every jurisdiction has gaps and the system is failing women and children,” Donovan says. “It is also failing to identify men’s behaviour and the warning signs early enough to intervene. This is one of the most critical social issues facing our country, it is terror in our homes and in what should be our safe spaces.”
The State Government acknowledges that “one agency is not always able to help clients so it is working to improve ‘integrated responses’.” A spokesman said: “That’s why, for example, we are trialling eight integrated responses through high-risk teams, to provide a wrap-around service to victims.”
For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.