UNIFEM Informs seminar

Mending their wings: Solutions for the prevention of violence against women

The first in a series of Adelaide seminars on social issues: Highlighting the United Nations International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women

Co-presented by UNIFEM Australia and The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, UniSA

Wednesday 24 November 2004

Guest speakers

  • Commissioner Mal Hyde, South Australian Police
  • Professor Rhonda Sharp, Hawke Research Institute, UniSA

Notes from Commissioner Mal Hyde, SA Police

  • Some women are the victims of violence
  • More often than not the perpetrators are men
  • Form and extent of violence varies around the world
  • May be influenced by the usual deadly sins, anger, jealousy etc, or by power relationships, sexual propensity, drug abuse, or during warfare or similar conflict
  • The level of violence in our community and what we do about it says a lot about who we are and our values
  • All that we do as a society should have as an ultimate outcome, the prevention of these forms of violence
  • Domestic violence is the first form of violence
  • Briefly it consists of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (physical, emotional, etc) between persons who have a relationship
  • Usually a crime
  • Crosses all racial, cultural, age and socio-economic groups
  • Be aware of the cycle of violence – tends to escalate and can result in homicide
    • across Australia 61% intimate relationships
    • 8 out of 10 killed by someone they know
    • males killed 94% of adult female victims
    • children – 72% offenders were parent or family member – more often fathers
  • Sensitive and emotional subject that has not been well handled over the years – very personal matter and solutions need to cater for the special nature of the offence and needs of the victim
  • In the past not well handled.
    • lack of practical support for victims, especially to overcome dependency
    • lack of support from the legal system in meeting the special needs of victims and the nature of the crime
  • Policy
    • morally and criminally wrong
    • not condone – positive action
    • social problems as well
    • victims needs
    • pro-arrest
    • victim can withdraw
  • Legislation
    • higher penalties for assault
    • stalking
    • restraining orders
    • child protection
  • Police response
    • support in community (shelters, counselling, advice on options etc).
  • Programs
    • repeat offending, tiered response, accountability of offender
  • Strategy (consistent with safety strategy for women).
    • training/education key feature.
  • Metropolitan – 10k taskings per year
    • 3.5k minor assaults where a relationship
  • One third did not proceed at request of victim
  • Grossly under-reported as well
  • This is the same for sexual assault
  • Looking at rape and attempted rape – 02/03 to illustrate – most victims are female
    • 691 offences and arrest/reported
    • 25% arrest or report
    • 27% victim requested no further action
    • 21% of arrests/reports referred to dpp
    • 70% of these proceeded to trial
    • 50% of those led to a conviction
    • of all reports only 1% convicted
  • On top of that estimated only 25% reported
  • So why is this?
  • High level of deterrence – factors include:
    • fear of not being believed
    • fear of trauma from involvement in the criminal justice system
    • a perception of a lack of corroborating evidence
    • mistrust of police
    • fear of family, spouse or partner reactions
    • humiliation arising from “allowing” the crime to occur
    • perception of self blame
    • fear of other consequences eg: removal of children, loss of status
    • pressure from the offender where he is a spouse or partner
    • fear of further violence/retribution from the offender
  • Need to look closely at how we handle victims
    • need to be very supportive with the aim of keeping them in the justice system
    • eg, providing information and reassurance – not unduly frightening them
    • need to convince women that the system supports them and they can have confidence in it
    • in some cases continue proceedings even if the victim might want to withdraw
  • Need to be careful of giving the victim the right to determine whether an offender should be prosecuted for a serious offence
    • creates opportunities for abuse
    • does not deter/prevent future offences as offenders are not brought to account
  • In terms of better service to victims – established the scib
    • specialist investigators
    • integrated services
    • more timely response to victims
  • Look at greater support in court for victims
  • Make it less intrusive eg, electronic recording of statements
  • Bringing cases on quicker
  • Being less confronting for victims, eg, video links
  • Protecting the victim’s integrity – note the offence has often happened in private, few if any witnesses, often no corroborating evidence and it depends on the question of consent
  • In this case it is the victim’s word against the offender and she is fair game for attack by the defence in court
  • Close:
    • 2 forms of violence against women
    • both marked by low reporting and retention rates
    • acknowledge very personal crimes where victims may have valid reasons for not proceeding
    • reporting rates have improved
    • but quite rightly ask whether we have got it right
Elizabeth Ho, Rhonda Sharp, Effy Kleanthi, Mal Hyde at the UNIFEM Informs seminar
Elizabeth Ho, Director of the Hawke Centre (left) with speakers Rhonda Sharp and Mal Hyde and UNIFEM Australia national committee member, Effy Kleanthi (centre)


UNIFEM Australia and White Ribbon Day

The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) is a non-profit organisation working to help improve the living standards of women and children in developing countries and to address their concerns. It is a global organisation with programs which promote women's leadership, with the goal to give women an equal voice in the decisions that shape their future and that of their children.
The aim of the UNIFEM Informs seminars is to promote the role and work undertaken by UNIFEM to the general public.

UNIFEM Informs is a UNIFEM Australia initiative. Additional information on UNIFEM Adelaide may be found at http://www.unifem.org.au.

White Ribbon Day is the largest effort by men across the world, working in partnership with women, to end men’s violence against women. White Ribbon Day is on 25 November each year which has been designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW). White ribbons are worn on the day by men who are encouraging all men to speak out against violence towards women, and by women who are supporting men.

Additional information