Support for violence victims swells on social media

FROM Facebook groups to government agencies, the groundswell against domestic violence is growing as people from all walks of life say enough is enough.

Over the past few years, family assaults have come to the fore, driven by the shocking number of women who have died recently at the hands of their partners.

In 2014, 50 women were killed by current or ex-partners and already this year it is believed 17 women have lost their lives across the country.

One group pushing for change nationally is Our Watch, a bipartisan organisation founded in 2013.

Our watch has a number of high-profile Aussies on board including Australian of the year Rosie Batty whose ex-partner killed their son Luke in 2014; Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick; human rights activist Khadija Gbla; and writer, TV presenter and broadcaster Charlie Pickering.

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Our Watch's aim is to stop violence before it happens.

"Our key focus is to sustain a public conversation about the incidence of family and domestic violence but also to highlight the key determinants behind it," Our Watch CEO Paul Linossier said.

"The areas of gender and inequality, rigid traditional gender stereotypes and trying to promote - in the world of decision makers and in the world of mum and dad at home, at the sports club, at the local school - what is it that we can do at a local level in our everyday interactions that can overcome sexism?"

National prevention campaign White Ribbon is working to change men's attitudes and behaviours with a focus on education, particularly in schools and workplaces.

A global organisation, White Ribbon's Australian arm kicked off in 2003.

It co-ordinates the country's International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women, also known as White Ribbon Day, that is held every November 25 and heralds 16 days of activism.

Many groups are pushing for grassroots change while providing much-needed support for victims.

Social media is beginning to play a significant role in the battle with a number of sites popping up on Facebook.

The Domestic Violence Death Review Action Group - comprising volunteer activists and violence support workers - hosts vigils every time someone dies at the hands of their partners; while the Gold Coast's Assist A Sista brings together community members to support victims, help children living in refuges continue their education and collect and distribute material aid across Queensland and NSW.

Both organisations use Facebook to issue calls to arms - whether it's for rallies or to gather material aid.

Working mothers Nicolle and Manuela started Assist A Sista in 2012 after a friend was forced to flee her home and an abusive relationship.

She left empty-handed and was desperately searching for somewhere to live.

Just 48 hours after sending out a call for housing, clothes, money and household items, Nicolle and Manuela found their friend somewhere to live and gathered everything she needed to kickstart her new life.

Northern Rivers public relations expert Sonia is one of the 200-strong volunteer workforce helping to find homes for about four women a week through the group.

The mother of three young children spends about 40 unpaid hours each month gathering sponsorship and co-ordinating media activities.

She finds the women Assist A Sista helps inspiring.

"I've had some teary moments," she said of the 12 months since she joined the group.

"I find the women we work with incredibly brave - they inspire me."

Other Facebook-based support groups include Destroy the Joint - a site for women who are "sick of the sexism dished out in Australia". The site lists the names of those who have lost their lives to domestic violence as a reminder of the terrible toll the epidemic is having.

Also on Facebook are Against Domestic Violence Australia that is "designed to support and allow victims of domestic violence to have a voice in society"; End Domestic Violence Now, a group committed to creating change across Queensland and New South Wales; Australians Against Domestic Violence; Australians in Domestic Violence Crisis Abroad; and Domestic Violence Survivors Lifeboat Australia.

- APN NEWSDESK


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