Women are being killed. Can we stop pretending AVOs work?

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24 Sep Women are being killed. Can we stop pretending AVOs work?

Moments ago I felt horribly resigned. Another woman killed by her ‘loved one’.

It’s been more than 25 years since my mother left my father. Mum still isn’t divorced because she’s still worried he will find and hurt her. Can you imagine? The family have our suspicions he’s dead, and all I can say is I hope he found peace because he reigned terror on our lives – just like every other man that ever raised a hand to their wife and children.

You might think it strange I hope he found peace, but as a parent, honestly, I can’t know how he possibly lived with himself.

Tara Brown, who was killed on the Gold Coast this week in a shocking instance of domestic violence, leaves behind a child who will grow up without a mother. Make no mistake, that child’s experience of life will always be coloured by violence. Always. When that little girl was dropped at daycare yesterday morning before her mother was killed, she would have heard and seen things no child should see.

I’m angry and sad – but mostly angry. In my violence prevention and empowerment workshops I insist girls shout at the top of their lungs they are strong, they are courageous and they are worth protecting, but you don’t need a workshop to tell a girl these things.

When Tara Brown claimed her right to be safe, reached out to the police and took out an AVO she knew she was strong, courageous and worth protecting – but by then it was too late.

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For victims, AVOs are worthless. Violence expert Gavin de Becker says: “AVOs are like homework handed out by police for women to prove they want to leave the violence.” They serve police and prosecutors. Can we stop pretending they work?

Victims need the people in their lives to step up and tell a man who beats his wife and children to get help.It’s not that easy – we’re not slaying mythical monsters here. It’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable. Yeah, well so is a hospital bed or not being able to sit down or chew your food.

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Men who hit wives and children have employees and friends. I get it. They don’t advertise they are potential killers, but you see the signs. You see how controlling he is. The denigrating and mean-spirited comments. You might know he was abused as a kid, something we know has been proven to contribute to the cycle of violence.

There is no such thing as a good guy who would be offended by any of these comments. My point is you see signs and deep down you know.

And what about the men who hit and abuse? What if you are that guy and hear the story of Tara Brown or Stephanie Scott and you see yourself in the story and decide you want help? What help is out there for a middle class guy who wants to stop hitting his wife and kids? I don’t see awareness campaigns for abusers, I just don’t.

Tonight I googled ‘How can I stop hitting my wife?’ The result is pretty underwhelming.

You can take a survey with whatsgoodaboutanger.com. US websitementalhelp.net tells men if you don’t care, there isn’t much we can say to get you to stop. Help for men that want to stop bashing their wives and children help seems thin on the ground. I’m not taking a shot at resources out there – I just can’t see them.

Having grown up with DV, and as an educator about violence prevention and empowerment, I care. Don’t get me wrong, I want these men to get help. This is not a pity party for blokes but the optimistic side of me thinks maybe, just maybe, if my sick father and the others like him could find a way to stop their cruelty, could they? Would they?

Inside a safe haven for women who have violent partners.

So what’s the answer? How do you find the courage to tell a fully grown man he’s not right in the head and needs to get help before he kills a defenceless woman or child?

The cycle of abuse is a strong one. For some people the pain they have suffered throughout their own childhood (or as an adult) is too much to bear. Some turn to addiction and self abuse while others offload their pain onto someone else. But for the men who do recognise they need help, there needs to be more help available. Is it really any different than depression in that sense?

We promote RU OK Day and help break down the social stigma against mental health issues so that people can get help. Men need to know they can get help for hitting their wives and children. Women and children need better services and measures to keep them safe.

Thankfully, my father is dead and my mum, sister and I are alive, but how many more women need to die while we work it out?

Melanie Thomas is Founder of KYUP! Project a Violence Prevention and Empowerment Initiative – Giving Girls a Voice 

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