Beating violence is up to all of us

IS IT just me or should you be ashamed of yourself too?

In 1989, when I was just married, one wet Bunbury night I heard my neighbour physically assaulting his wife. I was terrified and I didn't do anything other than look away the next day as that poor woman packed her car.

She left with her husband.

Two years later, in a fishing village out of Geraldton, our neighbours were abuzz because a woman had run screaming into the street overnight, begging for help, before being dragged by the hair back into her house.

John and I didn't wake as it happened but just like the

people who did witness it, we stayed silent.

I've had people even closer to me in violent situations and still done nothing.

I have never once called the police or a domestic violence hotline despite having strong suspicions and even proof of spousal abuse.

This week media personality Joe Hildebrand was criticised for his support of proposed Victorian laws making it a crime to not report family violence.

Joe said victims of domestic abuse should use the legislation to help them leave their partners. He was immediately attacked by Rosie Batty, whose son Luke was killed by his father at a suburban cricket field in February.

Ms Batty claims the proposed law does little more than further punish the victim.

I think they are both right. There is certainly no easy fix.

We can teach people to recognise early signs of controlling behaviour, offer anger management courses, encourage the whole community to speak openly about domestic violence and most of all, insist that everyone reports.

Not just the victims or the teachers and doctors but the sisters, brothers, friends and neighbours too.

No more turning a blind eye.

Cultural shifts are slow, but they can happen.

Most of all, the law needs to get serious. The abuser needs to be arrested and prosecuted every time there is a custody or AVO violation.

We should listen to children and no one should be allowed to keep the marital assets just because their partner fled the family home.

Rosie Batty and Joe Hildebrand have done Australian families a great service this week by putting family violence on the front page, where it belongs.

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