Women Illawarra have paid tribute to the women who have suffered from domestic violence and have honoured those victims who have died as a result of family, or sexual violence.

Image: Ann Phan. Flowers representing the lives of women who have died from domestic, family, or sexual violence.

ABS head of Crime and Justice Statistics, Will Milne, said that 4.2 million Australians suffered from domestic violence in 2021-22, with most being women.

In 2022-23, 34 women were murdered by a current or prior partner, eight more than the previous time period.

“The survey found that 27 per cent of women and 15 per cent of men had experienced violence or abuse by a partner,” Mr Milne said.

Source: ABS

Domestic violence survivor, Dee Blackmore has shared her experience at the memorial and spoke of freeing herself from an unhealthy relationship.

“It takes a long time, lots of self-care, and learning how to actually have your own self-worth again,” Ms. Blackmore said.

“I remember every time I heard a car drive by … because his car broke into the house, and I’d have to start freaking out.

“Make sure you find people you actually can talk to—people that are not going to blame, victim blame.”

Another domestic violence survivor, Robyn Dawson said she eventually ended an abusive relationship.

“I spent a lot of time looking over my shoulder for many years,” Ms Dawson said.

“I thought that he was going to pop out of any corner, and I turned a corner, and he just might be there.”

Ms Dawson said women often carry a lot of shame after being assaulted by partners.

“Putting some of the shame down,” she said.

“It was his bad behaviour, not mine.

“I was still trying to be a nice person.”

Image: Anh Phan. Robyn Dawson (left) and Dee Blackmore (right)

According to an ABS report, a common feature of domestic violence incidents was financial stress, which led to women experiencing relationship violence and abuse.

Women in households with one or more cash flow problems were more likely to have experienced partner violence or abuse in the previous two years than those in households with no cash flow problems.

Source: ABS

The ABS has identified several cash flow issues that may increase the risk of domestic violence.

These issues include difficulties with paying electricity bills, rent, and car insurance; the inability to make the minimum payments on credit cards; selling possessions for cash; skipping meals; seeking financial assistance from acquaintances or the community; and being unable to heat or cool homes.

Source: ABS

Women aged 35 to 54 were more likely to have endured emotional harm (7.7 per cent) and financial abuse (4.5 per cent) in the previous years than women of other ages, according to the ABS.

Women aged 18 to 34 (2.6 per cent) and 35 to 54 (2.2 per cent) were more inclined to have experienced partner violence than women aged 55 and older (0.6 per cent).

Source: ABS

Chair of the violence organisation Our Watch, Patty Kinnersly, spoke to The Guardian and warned about the increase of women suffering from domestic violence.

“As we know, violent murders are only the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

“There are tens of thousands of women living in unhealthy relationships.”

Ms Blackmore and Ms Dawson offered advice for women who might find themselves in similar situations.

Ms Blackmore advised people to have safety emails, squirrel away some money, reach out for help, and check their phones.

“Create yourself a safety email that you can send a document timeline of events that are happening between you and your partner,” she said.

“If you can secretly squirrel some money away, that is one of the main reasons why women are not leaving because they do not have the financial ability to be able to leave.

“Reach out; find resources that you can. There are so many supports out there that can support women with counselling and financial setup.

“Check the phone to make sure it is not being tracked, and if it is, leave it at home in case you need to do something important.”

Ms Dawson advised people to quietly plan to leave and choose shopping malls as a place to escape their partners.

“Quietly plan an existing strategy so that when you need to go, you find your people very quietly so that you have a way out and safe people to go to,” she said.

“Woolworths is the safest way to go for somebody who is trying to escape.

“Shopping malls are the best way to meet people because it doesn’t look out of the ordinary and it’s not going to put you at risk.”

Acknowledging this concern, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has declared domestic violence a national crisis and has provided $925 million for a program that helps victims leave abusive relationships, as well as online measures to prevent young people from accessing pornography and publishing misogynistic content.