Today I am honoured to be announced as the Patron of the Full Stop Foundation for ending domestic and sexual violence, Full Stop. I’d like to thank Dame Professor Marie Bashir, members of parliament including our host Pru Goward MP, Minister for Women, as well as members of the NSW Police, NRL, Our Watch and key supporters of Rape & Domestic Services Australia for attending the launch at Parliament House. Below is a transcript of my speech:

I am honoured be representing the Full Stop Foundation today.

Part of my journey to this podium has been the discovery of patterns in experience and social dynamics – stats and figures – looking beyond my own experiences in life to look at the larger patterns in the world. The discovery of the statistics brings both relief and sadness. Relief because, as a survivor of violence you quickly realize you aren’t alone, but also a sense of profound sadness that the same thing keeps happening to people – the same patterns keep repeating. About 1 in 6 Australian women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and about 1 in 20 men. I am one of the survivors, as are many people hearing this speech, many in this room. Those of you who thankfully have not experienced violence at the hands of someone you know and trust will know someone dear to you who has. This impacts all of our community but particularly impacts women and girls. A staggering 70% of women who are murdered in Australia are murdered by a current or former partner. On average about 1 woman every week has reportedly been killed by an intimate partner or former partner. This year 2 women every week have reportedly been killed by partners and former partners. 2 every single week this year. We don’t know if this alarming new figure is the result of better reporting practices or an increase in violence so far in 2015. Every single one of these deaths is one too many.

Family violence has been, and continues to be, one of the most destructive and deadly epidemics in our culture, impacting people of all walks of life, at every level of society. Intimate partner violence is today the number one cause of non-disease related death, disability and illness in women aged 15-44. The number one cause above all other risks. The home, where women should feel safest, is the most dangerous place for them. More dangerous than the highway. More dangerous than cancer.

The reason I am here at this podium as a survivor is not because I am better than those who have not survived, but because I am lucky. I am going to take my time on this earth to do everything I can to make this violence stop. In doing so I join countless unsung heroines and heroes who have fought hard for decades to make our communities safer – people whose names most of us will never hear. I’d like to acknowledge them now, and thank them for their work. I’d also like to thank those of you who are already here as champions of change in this important area.

Australia, members of parliament, members of the community, leaders in business, I hope you will join us now.

Because although there is now improved public awareness about the issue of sexual and domestic violence and its prevalence, the violence has not stopped. The deaths have not ceased. Awareness is not enough. Talk is not enough. The Full Stop Foundation is about stopping the cycle of violence, Full Stop.

Full Stop will help fund the vital free national counselling service, 1800 RESPECT, where everyone regardless of gender or sexual orientation can call for help and practical support any time of day or night. Everyone deserves that support and none of their calls should go unanswered.

The foundation will also fund vital programs targeted at key areas that come up in the research and statistics again and again each year. Because while anyone can experience sexual or domestic violence, and anyone can commit it, we see that male perpetrators are by far the most common and women and children are by far the most frequent victims of these crimes, with an estimated 1 in 3 women experiencing violence, 1 in 6 being raped and 1 in 4 children being impacted by family violence, and indigenous women being 38 times more likely to be hospitalised by violence than non-indigenous women. These well-documented dynamics are troubling, and difficult to acknowledge, but they provide valuable clues as to where prevention programs are needed most.

The Full Stop Foundation’s prevention programs target key areas, including ethical leadership, a behavioural change program for men who have previously used violence or feel they may in the future, and the Aboriginal Women’s Sexual Assault Network (also know as Hey Sis), our program in indigenous communities, led by indigenous women who are standing up to the violence in their communities.

The awareness raising and research in recent years has set the stage for the possibility of real change. Now we need more than talk, more than awareness, we need evidence-based, research-led programs to finally end the violence, Full Stop.

The Full Stop Foundation is about delivering evidence-based strategies and effective programs based on 40 years of work on the frontlines of domestic and sexual violence.

The Full Stop Foundation is about supporting frontline services for those in need, who have experienced violence, as well as frontline prevention strategies to stop the cycle of violence from occurring.

We can all play a role here, by stopping the victim-blaming so prevalent in our culture – the questions of why she wore this skirt, or he or she walked that road, or why she didn’t leave – and finally put the responsibility for criminal acts squarely on the perpetrators of those acts. As Australian of the Year Rosie Batty has said, ‘What we have to continue to remind ourselves is that violence is a choice’. We need to stand up as a community and say that sexual violence and family violence is a choice that is never okay – no matter who the victim is.

There is also a need for those who can to invest in change. This is the only way real change can occur. When companies buy in to social responsibility programs they not only help raise money, but they stand up for change, they raise awareness in their corporate community and they help drive real change on the ground. Rape and domestic violence impact all of our community, our colleagues and our friends. It affects the productivity of employees and the lives of customers. This is an important issue for everyone, in every sector.

I have been working closely with Rape & Domestic Violence Services and The Full Stop since last year, meeting with their team, with their professional fully-trained counsellors and engaging in their excellent training programs, including complex trauma and vicarious trauma training. With over 40 years of experience in this area, they are experienced, professional and dedicated, and in my view there is no organisation in this country better placed to deliver the programs and services needed for a future without violence.

People can survive domestic violence, can survive sexual assault, but nobody should ever have to. We all have the right to live without the fear of violence.

The time for talk is over. Now is the time to invest in change.

I hope you will join us in supporting The Full Stop Foundation. Thank you.

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Image: Andrew Scipione APM, Minister for Women Pru Goward MP, Carmel Tebbutt, Full Stop Foundation Patron Tara Moss, Executive Officer Karen Willis OAM, Dame Professor Marie Bashir, Natasha Maclaren-Jones, and Sophie Cotsis MLC at the launch of the Full Stop Foundation at NSW Parliament House, March 5, 2015. Photographs by Tom Greenwood.

* If you are experiencing sexual assault or domestic or family violence, or you want to support someone who is, contact the free national counselling service 1800 RESPECT for help.

 

Links: 

DONATE NOW. Donations are tax deductible.

Media Release

The Full Stop Foundation

Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia

1800 RESPECT, the national counselling helpline

 

Related: Q and A Highlight of the Night, ‘Tara Moss on the toxic silences around sexual and domestic violence’:

 

Related: Australian of the Year Rosie Batty speaks to Tara Moss at the Opera House on International Women’s Day, about domestic and family violence, how gender factors into violence, and about the ‘red flags’ of abusive relationships:

 

Further information on sexual and domestic violence in Australia:

Our Watch Fact Sheet

Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA) Fact Sheet