By: Emma Morgan | Co-ordinator of the FV Funders Network
An old story about wicked problems goes like this. Three blindfolded people encounter a creature blocking their path. One reaches out and feels the trunk, declaring the obstacle to be a snake. Another reaches out, feels its large ears, and decides it is a fan. The last one touches its leg and insists it is a tree. Unable to connect these individual experiences into a bigger picture, the people begin to fight amongst themselves. The elephant the trio failed to identify remains blocking the path and the people do not get to where they were going. The parable points to the collaboration and collective action required to addressing the barriers blocking progress.
We are witnessing a moment of reckoning for so many across the globe, not only with the human and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic exposing pre-existing vulnerabilities in our societies globally, but also the unfurling legacies of systemic racism, gender inequality and climate change. Closer to home we have heard sobering accounts of gendered violence, inequality and abuses of power on the national stage in recent months. Will this result in any notable change? Certainly, and incredibly, survivors of sexual assault are being heard like never before. At the same time, we see powerful people and institutions actively work to silence these accounts and aggressively turn away. It has been hard to watch these powerful accounts of abuse, and it has been hard to look away from these brazen demonstrations of power and entitlement.
We have had moments of reckoning before. This time last year I wrote about the family violence murders of Hannah Clarke and her children Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey. Their deaths were and continue to be unfathomable. Covid quickly came and swamped the national conversation, but on its heels was the rising tide of family violence and abuse that came with increased isolation and barriers to support. We now know the pandemic has led to a rise in family violence reporting, including more people experiencing this abuse for the first time, perpetrators using more severe tactics of violence and control, and increased complexity of cases. So, what will it take to end this national crisis? How many more women’s marches? How many more deaths? How much more individual and collective trauma will it take?
There is a glimpse of hope in the national conversation emerging from this mess.
The public consciousness has shifted, and it seems the messages our sector have been communicating for decades is at last sinking in. More people are recognising the connections between these experiences, and seeing that the structures, attitudes and norms that make these abuses of power possible are linked. Family violence, child abuse, sexual assault – all wicked problems often talked about separately, and in intangible terms that focus on long term changes to attitudes, structures, and policy.
However, these last few months seem to have got us all thinking: what if it is also a matter of re-writing the rules of power in this country? Sure, there is a mountain of deeply entrenched behavior, attitudes and beliefs that need to be challenged and changed and this will take time. And we can also come together and move the thing blocking our progress right now. Demand more from our leaders, demand fair and equitable representation, demand accountability and tangible action.
I am in the business of ending family violence. Understanding that gender inequality underpins this violence is the organising principle of my work.
Family violence is connected to sexual violence and child abuse, all driven by misogyny, ableism, racism, ageism, and homophobia. In Australia, colonisation is the ground on which all these other abuses of power play out. This intersecting network of power imbalance creates a monolith of oppression and violence is so big we lose sight of it. Right now, we have the rare opportunity to see it in full view. We have the power to come together and name this system of domination and inequity for what it is. More than that, our power and movement is growing – and our ability to not only name the pale, stale and mostly male elephant in the room but get it out of here is within reach.
A member of Victoria’s Victim Survivor Advisory Council recently gave an impassioned speech at an event marking five years since the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence tabled its report. She acknowledged much has change to improve outcomes and restore safety for victim survivors but stated “we are impatient for more” and concluded “let’s get this done”. We could not agree more.
The specialist family violence sector is committed to the reforms underway in our family violence system. Considering family violence was not a crime until 1975, it is incredible to consider the changes made in such relatively short periods of time. But we do not have unlimited time. Every week more death, more harm, more damage. Enough really is enough. Let’s harness the power of this moment and come together to demand a society where all of us can live free from fear and violence. Let’s get this done.
If you would like to learn more about the FV Funders Network and attend the 2021 Family Violence Funders Summit scheduled for April 29, contact here.
Apr. 13, 2021
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