Business focus on domestic violence

Zoe KeenanGeraldton Guardian

This month’s Women Inspiring Better Business breakfast opened discussion about how businesses can help with an issue that affects one in three women in Australia.

Tori Cooke, Ruah Community Services justice and family manager, spoke about the issue of domestic violence against women and highlighted the importance of working together as a community to prevent the issue.

Ms Cooke has worked as a social worker with women experiencing domestic violence and has been in domestic violence services for 16 years.

She said “toxic masculinity” was one reason domestic violence against women was so prevalent.

According to the 2013 National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey, 95 per cent of people who experienced domestic violence experienced it from male perpetrators.

“Men’s social norms and attitudes as well as traditional ideas of gender encourage them to believe they’re more entitled,” she said.

“In my work experience, men using violence are highly controlling and limit women’s independence.”

She also pointed to marital statuses as historically allowing domestic violence against women to occur without help.

“When a couple married, the man would have full custody over the woman and it was a binding contract that the woman couldn’t get out of — women weren’t able to divorce,” she said. “It also stated that rape couldn’t occur in marriage, which was changed after the final repeal in 1994.

“Before that, if a woman was raped by her husband, the only thing police could do was charge the man with property damage.”

Ms Cooke said once women’s rights came into play, it helped but it was still a problem.

She gave tips on how employers could help workers experiencing domestic violence in their home. “Natural instincts would be to get them out of the violent relationship,” she said. “Getting them to leave the relationship is the most high-risk thing because once they leave, the perpetrator’s behaviour escalates.

“Instead, business owners and managers can make sure the company has procedures in place to help and understand the correct referrals to use.”

Other ways in which businesses can help included creating a space victims can talk and feel comfortable talking in the workplace. Businesses could host seminars in their workplaces and were encouraged to find out who the local ambassadors were through Desert Blue Connect.

Desert Blue Connect in Geraldton hosted a summit on family violence prevention on September 28 and launched an action plan in response to the issue.

The action plan is called Community, Respect and Equality and is the first preventative action plan of its kind in WA.

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