On Monday, three new individuals were added to Australia’s harrowing list of women killed through acts of violence.
Less than 24 hours later, a fourth woman was killed.
In the 49th week of 2020, a time dedicated to honouring the United Nations 16 Days Of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the Australian register of violent deaths targeted against women increased from 45 to 49.
It marked the first time the registry, developed by feminist movement organisation Destroy the Joint, had recorded three deaths in a single day since its inception eight years ago.
Experts say the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequality in Australia, with lockdowns, rising unemployment, financial stress and overworked support services leading to the “worst year” for domestic violence in Australian history.
"2020 will be remembered as the worst year for domestic violence that any of us who are in the sector now have ever experienced,” Hayley Foster, the chief executive of Women’s Safety New South Wales, told the Guardian. “There [have been] just so many more strangulation cases, so many threats to kill, so many more serious head injuries, and sexual assaults [have been] going through the roof.”
The deaths of the three women whose names were added to the disastrous @DeadWomenAus@JointDestroyer register on Monday are not un-related. They are connected by a fatal epidemic that the coronavirus pandemic has made even worse. https://t.co/UsFDEATnTv— Georgie Dent (@georgiedent) November 30, 2020
A July report by the Australian Institute of Criminology reinforces Foster’s comments.
The report’s survey of 15,000 Australian women showed almost 5% of all women, and close to 10% of women living with a partner, have endured physical or sexual violence this year.
Over 22% of women cohabiting with their intimate partner reported experiencing emotionally abusive, harassing and controlling behaviours.
Two-thirds of the women said the violence either occurred for the first time or intensified when COVID-19 broke out.
Women’s Agenda, an equality rights publication, said Australia could do a lot to address the domestic violence pandemic.
The publication says the nation should establish a gender-based violence task force and distribute millions more to vital front-line support services like shelters, legal aid and hotlines. Each death due to domestic violence should also make front-page news.
"[Australia] spends billions of dollars on national security, fighting terrorism, as we should, but the fact we fail to adequately fund efforts to stem the most deadly form of terrorism on Australian soil — intimate terrorism — is stark,” Georgie Dent, a gender equality advocate and journalist, wrote for the publication Tuesday.
Dent added: “If two Australians had been killed in any other type of ‘terrorist’ attack on Monday, let alone three, it would be front-page news and the question being asked wouldn’t be ‘can we afford to invest in the services that are necessary to keep Australians safe?’ It would be this: how big does the cheque need to be to ensure this does not happen again.”