Domestic Violence

Consulting, Domestic Violence, Jenny Jackson, Women

On Power and (mis)use

I watch as women are killed in their homes in Australia at the rate of more than 1 woman per week. I read with despair, the number of Australia’s first peoples being incarcerated, dying in custody and living significantly shorter lives than non-Aboriginal Australians. I recoil at the treatment of those seeking asylum in our country of plenty. I see ‘self-interest’ driving government action and policy. At home and across the seas, I see prejudice and discrimination in every news cast. It’s news but it’s not new.

When so much is changing, why is it that nothing really changes?

I’ve just finished watching The Clinton Affair on SBS. Monica Lewinski is a name we all know. We don’t know the person. We know of a 22 yo intern at the White House. We know of “the dress”. He was POTUS.

He conspired, lied and cheated. More than once. His power over Ms Lewinski was immense. The power imbalance between POTUS and a 22 yo female intern is so obvious and oh so vast. The media ate her up and spat her out. And so did we as a society. The harm caused to Ms Lewinski and her family vs the harm to Clinton bear no resemblance whatsoever. People hear her name and immediately label her, shame her, judge her. This has affected every single facet of her life. Applying for jobs. Making dinner reservations. New relationships. The lot. For more than 20 years she has suffered the most vile public abuse and has been silenced by shame. The abuse she and the producer of the docu-series suffered when it was published is appalling yet not surprising, sadly. Him? Nope. Nada. “Charismatic…”

I’m now watching the Epstein series. Same power abuse. Different women (and girls). Same same but different. An horrendous and shameful story that befits ‘Hollywood fiction’, only it isn’t fiction.

This abuse of power occurs at an individual level, in communities and within the systems supposedly set up to protect us from inequality and misuse of power.

Many have experienced or witnessed the gross misuse of political and positional power. The system empowers the powerful. It silences, humiliates and ruins those without the power. We see that ‘politics’ and the focus on ‘winning elections’ so often gets in the way of good policy and transparency in every day dealings. In the famous words of Gough Whitlam in 1989, “the punters know that the horse named morality rarely gets past the post whereas the nag named self interest always runs a good race”.

We talk and talk and talk about living with honesty, dignity and respect. I don’t claim to have the answers but my response is to name how utterly sad I am and how desperately I want the world to be one where all people are equal and where systems and governments truly aspire and work towards this, not just use it as an election pitch. There are many who are determined to keep speaking about power and its frequent misuse despite the consequences and my name is on the list too. Please add your voice to this.

Because until we are all equal, none of us are truly free.

Consulting, Domestic Violence, EDVOS, Jenny Jackson

Domestic Violence and COVID-19 – a view from inside

The international and national evidence is absolutely clear – domestic and family violence escalates during and following natural disasters. A number of the specialist women’s services in Victoria researched this following Black Saturday fires, for example. They were (and are) considered leaders and at the forefront of this ground-breaking Australian research. What they found is absolutely consistent with what happened during and after Hurricane Katrina in the US, the earthquake in Canterbury, NZ and the list goes on.

In my previous role as CEO of EDVOS, I (and members of the EDVOS Education and Training team) developed and facilitated several presentations for local and state government representatives and non-specialist family violence services regarding this very issue and we used the evidence from Victorian women’s health services and international evidence to demonstrate how real and important this issue is. Domestic and Family violence in the setting of natural disasters also became part of the mandatory training for all EDVOS staff. We, and our partners were proactive and ready with a plan to respond in the event of a natural disaster. But we hadn’t imagined that a pandemic would occur and what the appropriate responses might need to look like.

In the setting of a pandemic such as COVID-19, domestic and family violence service responses require collaboration, expertise, a different set of strategies and additional partners. It is literally a matter of life or death.

What’s the difference?

Instead of people fleeing their homes to get away from the disaster, they’re staying home to avoid it. Instead of having increased opportunities to meet case workers face to face (for example, at relief centres etc), they in fact have vastly reduced opportunities as a result of physical distancing and barriers to travel and transportation. This current situation is vastly different and needs a variety of creative responses from those who know what they’re doing and who have the expertise to develop and design what is needed. Of course those who know best are those experiencing the violence themselves and those working in the specialist field – we need to hear from women victim survivors if we are to develop systems which meet their needs and those of their children. Listening to specialist domestic and family violence workers is also vital.

In my time at EDVOS we were already using various online platforms for clients to access interactive services online and it seems, these are more relevant and necessary than ever. It is vital that all agencies consider what it means to be accessible, responsive and relevant in these changing times. In addition, women with disabilities, are likely to be at even greater risk than they already were and specific focus is necessary and important to develop dedicated responses for women with disabilities. The system cannot be ‘one size fits all’, it simply won’t work as those who are already at increased risk or marginalised will be further marginalised and placed at further risk.

Whilst we hope that a crisis like this doesn’t happen again, it is entirely possible that it will. So our systems need to be built not just for COVID-19 but for other such scenarios in the future too. As a community we cannot deny that a dangerous spike in domestic and family violence is occurring right now and will continue for some time, because to do so, puts the lives of women and children (and their pets / animals) in further peril.

There has been vast sums of money channelled in to family violence (of course more is always needed) but my hope is that services will listen to the experts – women, children and those working in this highly specialised field, to do everything possible to get maximum value from these additional resources – not only for now, but for the future. We need to look from inside the homes of victim / survivors and perpetrators to develop meaningful and relevant systems and responses.

Jenny Jackson Signature

Some further reading is available here:

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