By Teresa Lombardo
We’re in the middle of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and over the weekend, Maria Dimasi (85) was murdered in Adelaide, her husband has been arrested for her murder. Tragically, Maria is the 58th Australian woman murdered this year by someone she knew. Maria is another woman who has paid the ultimate price of gendered violence.
On average, 1 woman every 5.5 days is murdered and one in six have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a current or former partner. While much of this blog focuses on gendered violence against women, because that is my own lived experience, I must also note the impact of gendered violence on women with underrepresented or historically marginalised intersecting identities. Living with disability, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse women who are at a higher risk of experiencing Gendered Violence as are trans and non-binary folks and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
We are not all safe, until all women, trans and non-binary folk are safe.
Ten and a half years ago, I found myself standing in front of a magistrate requesting the protection of a family violence intervention order. A surreal experience. Little did I know how insidious and pervasive the violence was and how it would impact my life for more than a decade, perhaps even my whole life.
At the time, I’d never heard of family violence leave and like many women, financial abuse was a huge part of my relationship so I couldn’t financially afford to be a victim of family violence and to take time off to protect myself with intervention orders, to report breaches to the orders to the police.
What I also didn’t realise when I left that relationship, 11 years ago, was that the abuse would continue to this day. Only 4 weeks ago, I was at the police station reporting breaches to the intervention order and it was only 12 weeks before that when I was last at the police station reporting breaches.
The impact of gendered violence doesn’t stop and that is why I’m writing this here, because for many women, just like me, there is almost no more important place to be supported when you are experiencing family violence than in the workplace.
Sadly, most workplaces aren’t yet ready to respond. So this is a call to action, for you to make sure that your workplace is prepared to respond when (not if) one of your staff discloses they are experiencing the impacts of gendered violence.
Just take a moment to think about what an experience of gendered violence might do to you. To have to think about your safety all the time; when the next abusive message will come, how to reassure your child when they receive aggressive messages, protecting your home address, making sure that the school, sports clubs and your work have copies of the intervention order in case it is needed – it is overwhelming. Add to that, managing the ongoing effects of abuse, fear and having to question everything.
A supportive workplace, one that understands what you need, provides flexibility, sound policies, and procedures and that does not judge is essential. Over the past 11 years of my own experience, there has been a noticeable shift in how workplaces respond to and support staff disclosing experiences of family violence. It is getting better but there is much work to be done.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is a call for collective action and for systemic change. Here are just a few things that you and your organisations can do:
Acknowledge the Unique Challenges of Trans and Gender Diverse Individuals and women with intersecting identities. Gender-based violence must be addressed comprehensively, with an explicit recognition of the unique challenges faced by trans and gender diverse individuals and women with intersecting identities. This means ensuring that responses are sensitive to the diverse experiences of the individual.
A critical step in combatting gender-based violence is ensuring that you have policies to support individuals experiencing gendered violence and procedures that make it easier to report or disclose an experience of gendered violence. This includes having safety plans that are developed and led by people with lived experience.
Have a team of people who know how to respond to disclosures of gendered violence, have compassion for victims disclosing and be empowered to support that person. This can be the difference between people disclosing and gaining the support they need or staying quiet and paying the ultimate price.
Our workplaces must be leaders in respect. Drawing a line between what is acceptable behaviour and what is not, when it comes to discrimination, bullying and harassment. Making sure that your organisation is clear on expectations and has a prompt and decisive strategy for responding to reported incidents as well as creating an environment where such behaviour is unacceptable.
The chances of you knowing a woman who will or has experienced gendered violence is pretty high, what we often forget is that the chances of you knowing a perpetrator of gendered violence is almost just as high.
So, what does your organisation do to support those who use violence? Do you have support services you would refer them to? Do you have clear boundaries for the use of organisation technology to perpetrate the violence? Do you have protocols for handling situations where both the victim and perpetrator are employees of your organisation?
As we head towards the second half of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, I ask you to take a look around your organisation and ask if you’re ready to do what you need to fight against gendered violence.
25 February 2021
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