Domestic voilence

I want to start my contribution today by introducing to the Chamber the remarkable and tragic story of Simone O’Brien’s domestic violence journey.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to meet and hear from Simone at the “Say No to Domestic and Family Violence dinner” sponsored by the Combined Rotary Clubs of Mount Gambier.

Simone’s journey began 11 years ago when she was subjected to a horrifying intimate partner domestic violence attack by a perpetrator who couldn’t take “no” for an answer.

By Simone’s own account, she was oblivious to domestic violence and the associated red flags until she learned the hard way.

Her story is not for the squeamish. After experiencing emotional and psychological abuse by her perpetrator – including lies, theft and insults – Simone was then horrifically beaten with a baseball bat that left her clinging to life.

Her head was literally caved in by her abuser – in front of her children – within 10 minutes of her phone call to break up with her partner of 9 months, whom she met by online dating.

Compounding the significant physical and emotional pain she experienced at the hands of this monster was what she describes as the unimaginable ripple effects that this had on her children and family.

Simone’s injuries were extensive. Her left arm was broken in 2 places; her top jaw was smashed; her nose and right cheekbone were broken; both eye sockets were damaged; and her skull was completely shattered. She was left blind in one eye, needed multiple surgeries to reconstruct her face, and required screws and titanium plates to piece her skull back together.

Simone’s story and her resilience and strength is now shining a light on domestic violence but we tragically know that here story is not an isolated one.

She is joined by the 16% of Australian women who the Australian Bureau of Statistics say have experienced partner violence in their lifetime.

And the trend does not appear to be heading in the right direction. The data shows a steady increase in Domestic Violence Orders over the past few years, with the ABS finding a 13% increase in family and domestic violence, and sexual assaults.

The figures appallingly show that 5,700 cases of DV were reported in 2021, which is a growth of 2,000 cases in just 3 years.

But we also know that domestic violence is not isolated to female victims with the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, NSW Crime Tool (2023) finding that 1 in 3 victims of Domestic Assault from January 2021 to December 2022 were male and 1 in 8 men will experience violence from an intimate partner or family member in their lifetime.

Domestic violence is a black mark on our society and we should do all we can to stamp it out.

Through the advocacy and work of Simone O’Brien and campaigns such as Rotary’s “Say No to Domestic Violence” and the One in Three Campaign for male victims of family violence, I am hopeful that this trend will see a change in trajectories.

While it is encouraging to see more women feeling comfortable about opening up about their negative experiences in this space, there is seemingly a tendency for men to be less outspoken about their own.

The One in Three Campaign notes that men are 2 to 3 times more likely than women to have never told anybody about their experience with current or previous partner domestic violence incidents. They are also 50% more likely than women to have never sought advice or support.

There appears to be a stigma felt more acutely by men when it comes to speaking out about their own experiences as a victim of domestic violence.

With the support of anti-domestic violence campaigns such as One in Three, Rotary Club’s “Say No to Domestic Violence” and Simone O’Brien’s powerful story, hopefully the stigma that afflicts men and women alike can be overcome.

To end on a slightly more positive note than how I began, I would like to quote Simone’s mantra that she often tells herself to keep her on track. They are words we can all live by and I want to thank and congratulate her as she continues on her national – and international – campaign to rid us of the scourge of domestic violence.

Never give up. Keep smiling. And stay positive. Here here, Simone.