Violeta M. Bagia
Staying Safe During Times of Change
Since the introduction of mandated social distancing and home isolation, domestic abuse has spiked in Australia. Several Facebook posts have taken off where women share a simple post where they promote their ‘skin care range’ and ask women to contact them about placing an order if they’re unsafe. The idea, similar to the Ask for Angela campaign which took off in the UK in 2016, provides a safe and clandestine approach for women in danger to reach out and speak to someone.
While this approach is a novel way to get women to speak up and ask for help, it doesn’t address the issue itself. Violence against women isn’t new nor is it going to vanish once the isolation restrictions are lifted. The shocking number of women who are at risk within their own homes isn’t limited to physical and verbal abuse. Sexual assault by a known male makes up a staggering number of reported cases and even more which go unreported.
During times of crisis and economic unrest when attention is on the wider world, it’s often easy to forget the crimes that happen behind closed doors which adds to the stress and anxiety of victims and women who are at risk. In trying times like Covid-19, police are busy and under pressure to keep the general public in line while medical workers are inundated with cases from the pandemic. It’s understandable that women who are in the high-risk category might find themselves unwilling to speak up.
This mentality isn’t new either unfortunately. The fear of judgement and of not being believed is at the root of most victims. Now those who know me, know I loathe the term. I refuse to call myself a victim just like I refused to let what happened to me, define me. But the fact remains, the mentality hasn’t shifted for decades and we haven’t moved along as a society to help drive it in a better direction either. Because of the nature of most of these unreported cases, many victims face the same crossroads—would I be believed because he was my boyfriend, husband, friend…?
It doesn’t help that the prevalence of sexual assaults stylized in movies is that of the smallest percentage that makes up the overall rate of sexual assault in Australia—the stranger in a dark alley. Once we as a people are able to shift that mindset, we’ll be able to comfort the women in our lives and help them to speak up if they have been the victim of such a domestic crime.
Only once those perceptions are shifted will we be able to move into a positive light where each of these crimes will be taken seriously and each of the victims allowed their right to process, heal and move on with their lives in a healthy and productive way.
During these trying times, do keep an eye on the women in your life, do make sure they’re comfortable to speak with you if there’s something wrong, share your ‘make up range’ online and help each other. We are all in this together and we are all capable of change. So, with that ability, make it a good change, make it a worthwhile one, help someone, teach someone.
**if you or someone you know is in danger, please call 1800 RESPECT to contact the Domestic Violence Hotline (Australia), or if you're in need of urgent assistance, call 000.