Rosie Batty warns family violence may become worse over the next few months due to social isolation and financial pressures
The 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty has encouraged pharmacists to be aware of the realities of domestic violence in delivering the Ann Dalton Address broadcast online as part of APP2020.
“We have an epidemic called family violence. Your pharmacy community, your hub is a really important part of any community. As we really battle down with the fear and anticipation of the coronavirus, I realise just what an important part you play and will continue to play because family violence affects one in three women, one in four children,” says Ms Batty, whose 11-year-old son Luke was brutally murdered by his father in 2014.
“That’s women across your community, that means one in every three women that come into your pharmacy are likely to be managing or struggling with family violence in their own homes.
“People don’t come into your environment necessarily showing bruises or external injury, they may come in struggling with anxiety and depression and may not want to share what’s happening in their own homes.”
Ms Batty, who was awarded the Pride of Australia’s National Courage Medal in 2014 for her advocacy in bringing domestic violence to light, reminds pharmacists that family violence can happen to anybody.
“It doesn’t matter how nice your house is, it doesn’t matter how intelligent you are. I am a white, middle class woman, and family violence happened to me. I know that as a white middle class woman I have a voice that a lot of other women don’t have, women that have greater vulnerabilities that I will never know.
“Women who come into your pharmacy may not have anywhere to go, no one who will believe them. These are power constructs put in place. The shame so many women feel because they are in a violent and abusive relationship is so very, very unfair and our societies and communities continue to reinforce that. ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ … What an ignorant thing to say on so many levels.”
Ms Batty explains that women in such relationships are at risk of homelessness, may be financially controlled, and those that are making plans to leave are at the highest risk of being murdered.
“For many women, the prospect of staying is the safest prospect for themselves and their kids. It’s unfair but that’s the kind of terrorism that so many families are experiencing in your neighbourhood,” she says.
“How do we change the conversation from a victim blaming discourse to one of genuine deep and rich challenge which asks, why are some men choosing violence, power and control over the women in their lives?”
Looking back at her own journey, Ms Batty says she’s come a long way in the six years since Luke died.
“I’m not consumed every moment of every day with painful and significant memories of Luke and what happened to him, and the drama and the trauma of how he was taken from me. I’ve come to terms on many levels with the pain of not being able to share and celebrate the meaningful milestones. He would now be 17 approaching his 18th birthday,” she says.
“I have had to accept that Luke was used to take control over me, as a final act of revenge.”
She encourages pharmacists to be mindful of patients and customers who may be fearful for their safety.
“Your unique role has some of those answers. And how you can work as an industry to look at how you can address and respond through your pharmacy community in an improved way. So what I’d like to encourage is be mindful of what your customers may be going through, if they are anxious, if they are depressed. You may be that person, if it is safe to do so, that quietly and safely says, ‘are you okay? I have some concerns.’ And for many customers they may not know who they can talk to and reach out to,” she says.
“I know of the next weeks and months the significant strain we’re all going to be under. I can’t help but wonder how I can support my community and those around me in ways that don’t exacerbate the problem. I see great opportunity for compassion, for empathy, for generosity of spirit, and for us all to rise through a very difficult time. I look forward to sharing that journey with you.”
Call 000 for Police and Ambulance help if you or someone you know is in immediate danger.
1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732
24 hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Call toll-free 1800 737 732.
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Lifeline has a national number who can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your State.
Anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide can call 13 11 14.
Men’s Referral Service – 1300 766 491
This service from No to Violence offers assistance, information and counselling to help men who use family violence. Call 1300 766 491 if you would like help with male behavioural and relationship concerns.
Kids Help Line – 1800 551 800
Free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25 in Australia. Call 1800 551 800 for help.