ONE hundred and fifty-two people were killed by intimate partners in four years in Australia.
Each homicide case involved a history of domestic violence, leading a network of experts to find such deaths were ‘largely preventable’.
Annie North chief executive Julie Oberin said the findings of the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Network, which were detailed in a recent report, were both encouraging and tragic.
“It challenges us all - governments, service providers, and the community - to do more, so that it doesn’t continue to happen,” Ms Oberin said.
“If you can foresee it, you can prevent it.”
The report described the deaths as largely preventable, ‘when viewed as the escalation of a predictable pattern of behaviour.’
Each of the 152 intimate partner homicides from July 1, 2010 – June 30, 2014, followed an ‘identifiable history of domestic violence’.
More than 79 per cent of the cases studied involved men taking the lives of women who were, or had been, intimate partners.
“The report is clear. Most of the victims were women,” Ms Oberin said.
“Most of the murderers were male, even when they killed their male partner.
“Most of the women who killed were not the primary aggressor and the male was the primary abuser in 61 percent of cases.”
Centre for Non-Violence chief executive Margaret Augerinos said the report’s findings invited discussion about why men were over-represented as perpetrators of violence, and how the pattern could be changed.
Ms Augerinos believed resistance to the gendered nature of intimate partner violence was affecting prevention efforts.
“Until we, as a society, can have honest conversations about why our statistics are the way they are we are going to struggle,” she said.
Ms Augerinos identified a need to openly discuss factors driving violence against women, such as gender inequality.
She also highlighted a need for greater community awareness about what constituted violence and how to seek support when things were not ok, for themselves or for someone else at risk.
While many people in the community were well informed about family violence, Ms Oberin said many were not.
“There is a tendency to focus on black eyes, bruises and broken bones when what we really should be focusing on is unhealthy relationships where there is an unequal balance of power and coercive control is pervasive,” she said.
“For example, he acts like he ‘owns’ her, he controls who she sees, what she wears, what she does. He is jealous and accuses her of flirting.
“The victim may start to become isolated and have excuses for not connecting with family and friends like she did before. There are many signs.”
Ms Oberin said we, as a community, must step up and notice when people’s behaviour started to change, and ask if they were ok.
“Many times the system lets these people down, but those working in this field are trying to do our best to improve the systems response, so that perpetrators and victims don’t continue to fall through the gaps,” she said.
“For family and friends and community members, it is important to notice when people start to become isolated or act differently.”
Like Ms Augerinos, Ms Oberin cited a need to change the embedded culture in society that ‘almost allowed’ gender inequality to flourish.
“Call it out when we hear sexist jokes and put downs which belittle women and make them out as inferior and objects just for pleasure,” she said.
The inaugural Australian Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Network 2018 report draws on data from the Coroner’s Courts and police.
Twenty-eight of the 152 intimate partner homicides were perpetrated by women, most of whom were victims of violence who killed male perpetrators.
Almost a quarter of men who killed women who were, or had been, their partners were subject to Domestic Violence Orders intended to protect their victims.
At least 107 children under the age of 18 survived 152 intimate partner homicides examined in the report, which involved one or both of their parents.
More than 63 per cent of the male perpetrators killed women they were in relationships with, while about 36 per cent of male perpetrators killed former female partners.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or www.1800respect.org.au.