By Sonia Hickey
The statistics paint a horribly bleak picture: One woman is killed by her partner every week in Australia.
According to figures published by Destroy the Joint’s Counting Dead Women Initiative, 16 women have already died this year as a result of family violence. In 2015, a staggering 79 women were killed at the hands of men – with 80% of those deaths resulting from family or domestic violence.
Sadly, Australia is not alone in that regard. The United Nations has labelled violence against women a ‘global epidemic’, with an estimated 35% of women experiencing physical or sexual violence during their lifetime.
While the data makes for sobering reading, the positive news is that governments are beginning to recognise and react to the issue – funding programs designed to combat domestic violence.
Addressing domestic violence
There’s no doubt that stemming the tide of violence against women will require a collaborative approach, as well as systemic change across all areas of the community, from within the family to important points of contact such as school teachers and medical practitioners, through to victim support services and the legal system.
Education plays a vital role in the fight against family violence; with experts pointing out that we must make a concerted effort to teach our youth about the value of loving relationships and the unacceptability of violence, both inside and outside the domestic context.
In the meantime, there remains the constant threat of harm to large numbers of vulnerable people in abusive relationships; both men and women.
But technology may be stepping in to help, with the development of the SafeTCard person alarm.
Technology steps in
The SafeTCard is an initiative of Safe Futures Foundation, working closely with Victorian Police. A 12-month trial of the card has just been completed, with extremely promising results.
It is reported that over Easter, the card potentially saved the life of at least one woman and her children, who were being held hostage by a drug-affected ex-partner.
The woman activated the device which called the 24/7 SafeTCard hotline. Operators could hear her cries of help, and because the card provides location information, police were able to quickly attend the scene and arrest the suspect. Had they been required, paramedics could have received the same information which, along with the voice recording, is held on a secure database and can later be used in court.
Another woman who participated in the trial says the device deterred her former-partner from contacting or approaching her. She reported that before having the card, her ex had repeatedly breached injunction orders, causing her to fear for her life. But once she told him about the device, he stayed well away from her.
According to administrators, this was the outcome in all of the trial cases – with no breaches being reported while participants possessed the device.
There are proposals for a wider roll-out of the card, as well as plans to install cameras which would record and instantly transmit visual images.
Police hope the card will assist in identifying and profiling repeat offenders, as well as facilitate improved information sharing across agencies including Child Protection and Family Services, to better help women and children at risk.
And with domestic violence-related cases clogging courts across Australia, an additional benefit might be to ease the pressure on our criminal justice system.