Some of the 55 Australian women killed as a result of alleged murder and manslaughter in 2019.
Some of the 55 Australian women killed as a result of alleged murder and manslaughter in 2019.

Blood on whose hands? The epidemic we can no longer ignore

It's too late to change the stories of these women, but it is not too late to save the lives of the little girls who follow in their footsteps, writes journalist SHERELE MOODY

A baby girl born just hours before her mum's life ended.

An eight-year-old boy watching as his dad kills both his mother and himself.

A romantic-at-heart country woman shot to death by her lover.

A 21-year-old Arab-Israeli student raped and beaten while on a study trip in Australia.

An elderly woman whose screams for help are ignored and whose killer still roams the streets.

A dentist murdered by her obsessed former partner and left to rot in the boot of a car.

A young musician stabbed to death by her father after a night out with friends.

Six murder victims for whom we have no names.

These are just some of the 55 women whose lives were wiped out over the past 10 months due to the deadly actions of another.

MORE FROM SHERELE MOODY: Nine months, 51 dead women. What about their kids left behind?

Men are suspected in three-quarters of these alleged acts of murder or manslaughter while around 65 per cent have been attributed to intimate partner and family violence.

Women are dying at a rate of just under two per week and we are on track for this year's femicide toll to eclipse the annual dead women counts of the past three years.

In the past few weeks, 10 women have been killed.

With the final three months of the year typically our most deadliest as male aggression rises on the back of major sporting events like the Melbourne Cup and footy finals, warmer weather leading to higher consumption of alcohol and a range of stressors that flow from the congruence of money troubles and Christmas holiday spending, there is no relief in sight.

We are in the grip of a violence epidemic, yet it seems the names, faces and stories of these victims are failing to prick the Canberra bubble, with our Federal Government making decisions that will only exacerbate the problem.

MORE FROM SHERELE MOODY: Time for emotional abuse to be criminalised

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's response - or lack thereof - really shows the measure of him as a leader and as an empathetic man.

This is a leader who has budgeted $10 million for irresponsible relationship counselling between victims and their abusers.

Putting an abuser in the same room as a survivor is dangerous. If you don't believe me simply look at the murder of Sarah Marie Thomas, who was stabbed to death by her former partner while attending mediation with him at the Joondalup court house. He will be sentenced in a few weeks.

Scott Morrison has also shown his naivity on domestic violence in particular by allowing renowned father's rights activist Senator Pauline Hanson to repeatedly - and erroneously - frame female victims and survivors of abuse as liars seeking a step-up in custody cases and single mums as greedy harlots robbing dads of their money and their kids.

He could have censured Hanson, but didn't, when she used the cover of parliamentary privilege to thumb her nose at the Family Law Act by defaming the former partners of her sons over their relationship breakdowns.

This should have been enough for Morrison to draw the line in the sand but instead he ignored the best advice available to make her co-chair on the looming family law and child support inquiry, which he has appointed Kevin Andrews to head.

MORE FROM SHERELE MOODY: Pauline Hanson's shaming of single mums puts lives at risk

Andrews is a conservative who is staunchly anti-divorce and was Social Services Minister when the federal government offered discount vouchers for wives to attend sex counselling to better please their husbands.

The government's commitment is abysmal.

This year Morrison will spend around $80 million nationwide on support and prevention strategies, compared to $150 million on Donald Trump's whacky Mars mission.

The most telling part of this sad charade is the Prime Minister's unwillingness to address what is Australia's biggest social justice issue.

The government’s commitment to tackling domestic violence is abysmal. Picture: AAP/Bianca De Marchi
The government’s commitment to tackling domestic violence is abysmal. Picture: AAP/Bianca De Marchi

He talks about suicide and its impact on men, he says kids are being exposed to unnecessary anxiety over climate change, he speaks of his commitment to God, he praises the silent Australians, he finds words for football, the economy, the opposition, Donald Trump's priorities, conservative compassion and unfunded empathy.

But he flat out refuses to respond to the deaths of 55 women.

MORE FROM SHERELE MOODY: Male violence: How do we fix it?

When someone stuck a needle in a strawberry last year, he couldn't roll out tougher penalties for food tampering fast enough.

Don't let the number of deaths fool you - they are just the tip of the violence iceberg.

Police attend around 600 domestic violence incidents a day nationwide while personal safety data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows one in three women experience sexual, domestic or other violence in their lifetime.

Our country has the eighth-highest rate of domestic and family violence of the world's 20 economic powerhouses.

Statistics don't lie, but they do paint a grim picture and they show that a war on women does exist.

Every life lost has a devastating and ongoing impact on family members, friends, colleagues and the communities of both victims and perpetrators.

A woman's death drains resources from policing, courts, prisons and mental and other health services.

The financial impost of gendered violence on our economy is mind-blowing, setting back the tax-payer $21 billion a year.

That's roughly the same amount of cash the mining industry generates.

There's much to be said about the onus of ending violence falling on the shoulders of the perpetrators.

MORE FROM SHERELE MOODY: Where's the outrage for Aiia?

But this can also be a dangerous fallacy that leads to complacency: We cannot rely on violent men to keep their hands to themselves because most violent men do not consider themselves to be at fault. You cannot fix a problem if you don't acknowledge it.

The key to ending violence against women is strong leadership backed by equitable governance delivering well-funded long-term support services and prevention strategies.

Until we get this formula right, the war on women will continue unabated and the list of its casualties will grow.

Sherele Moody has is an award-winning News Corp journalist, a 2019 Our Watch fellow, and founder of The RED HEART Campaign and the Australian Femicide & Child Death Map.

*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Mensline on MensLine on 1800 600 636.

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