Australian of the Year Rosie Batty has questioned why women have to “work so hard to be believed” when they report domestic violence and called for the legal system to be overhauled to better support victims.
Ms Batty, whose son, Luke, was murdered inFebruary last year by his father, said the legal system too often was “not prepared to support and validate the experiences of the victims”.
“Our organisations who respond and should be responding with the best interests of our victims in mind … disappoint and let us down because, you see, strangely, a woman can’t be believed,” she said on Sunday.
“What’s that about? Why do we have to work so hard to be believed?”
Ms Batty was speaking at the All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House, which coincided with International Women’s Day. She said that many women had “woeful” experiences in the courts and there was a misconception that abuse was always physical.
“We have to work until we have every policeman, every magistrate, every judge understanding the complexities of family violence,” she said. “I will not stop until that happens. Currently what can happen throughout our court processes is if there hasn’t been a violent incident recently it’s [regarded as] an indication of future safety, which is absolutely not the case. Past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour.”
She added that children’s safety was sometimes seen as secondary to the rights of a parent to see a child, which was an “absolute flaw that cannot continue”.
Ignorance about family violence existed in every profession and at all tiers of leadership, she said, and specialist services were vital so that victims did not feel “criticised or judged”.
Ms Batty, who has backed calls for a national crisis summit on violence against women, choked back tears as she described “how proud Luke would be at what I am doing”. She said that family violence had been an issue for decades and “no one wanted to know”.
“Luke was killed as the ultimate act of power and control because violence is a gender issue. The reason people listen to me is because Luke died in a public place, killed by the man who loved him. That story is horrific … and nobody can dispute it.”
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732
Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491
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