Rosie Batty Speech at Press Club regarding Family Domestic Violence

I wanted to share this. An amazing addres by Rosie Batty.

Rosie Batty’s address to the National Press Club

JUNE 03 2015 BY ROSIE BATTY, OUR WATCH AMBASSADOR AND FAMILY VIOLENCE ACTIVIST

Ms Batty launches the Our Watch Awards at the National Press Club.

Photo of Rosie Batty. Image

I wish to acknowledge the Ngunnawal people as the traditional owners and custodians of land on which we meet today. I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, as well as Elders from other communities who may be here today or watching.

I also pay tribute to those of you in the audience today who have worked long and hard to protect women and children from violence, support survivors, and advocate for greater funding and action to address this critical issue.

You all know my story. Just over a year ago, my son Luke was murdered by my estranged partner. 

The day Luke was murdered I crashed in my bedroom and woke the next day to people discussing that there was media outside and I should be protected from them.

As I’ve always been independent, you would be right in assuming that I didn’t like that one bit. 

I was initially going to tell you all to go away, but soon realised the opportunity I had to name family violence, highlight its prevalence and tell the nation that something must be done.

At the time I didn’t think I’d said anything unusual, I was more worried that I had embarrassed myself and my friends and family by proxy.

Journalists were shocked by-in-large that I was so unequivocal about framing Luke’s murder in the context of family violence.

Everyone expected me to play the crying victim.

In this respect, I compare my story to that of Lindy Chamberlain and am grateful for how different our journeys have been. 

She too, was outspoken from the very beginning which shocked media and the public. 
But in her case this led to eight years in jail. 

This was a result of victim blaming, the nature of which still exists in both society and the media, but something from which I have largely been immune — unlike many other survivors. 

Also, as I was so open with journalists, they didn’t try to fill in gaps in the story, which meant a platform of mutual respect was established in the beginning.

This respect has made a big difference in my journey with you, not only because family violence now seemed a worthy topic to report on, but because the respect broke down barriers between us and even enabled journalists to share their stories of family violence with me – reinforcing how prevalent the issue is.

Since my first encounter talking about violence against women and their children with the media, I haven’t really stopped. 

Many of you in the media gave me a platform to raise this issue up the national agenda, and you demonstrated your power in helping shift the national conversation.

You showed what we can do together, if we are brave enough to tell stories like mine, and those of far too many women and children in Australia. 

Many other survivors of violence are in the room today, some of whose names you will be familiar with through no want of their own.

I would especially like to acknowledge Ann O’Neill, Rebecca Poulson and Michael Costigan. Thank you for coming today, as the Costigan family says, ‘Together we are strong’.

You in the media aren’t just telling my story, you are telling the story of 1 in 6 women in Australia who are affected by intimate partner violence. You’re telling the story of the children who witnessed this violence, as over half of these women had children in their care when the violence occurred.

The number of articles devoted to the issue of violence against women currently exceeds anything we have ever seen before.

Frontline services who often felt frustrated by the lack ofmedia attention regarding what was happening ‘behind closed doors’ are telling me the same thing.

Ken Lay, my colleague on the COAG advisory committee and a former Victorian Police Commissioner, and Natasha Stott Despoja, Chair of Our Watch shared this stage in 18 months ago.

At the time, Ken said that for ‘many years violence against women has been one of Australia’s filthy little secrets’ and Natasha called it a ‘national emergency’ in Australia.

It is both.

  • 1 in 3 Australian women has encountered some form of violence
  • 1 in 5 of us has experienced sexual assault

Statistics often wash over people, so let’s reframe them: 

  • If this room was full of women, at least 50 would have experienced sexual assault.
  • If you have 3 sisters or 3 daughters, one of them will encounter violence. 
  • If you work with at least 6 women, one of them has experienced violence by a current or former partner.


Today, I ask you what we do now that the story of violence against women is finally out of the shadows and into the spotlight?

How can we take this opportunity and really explore what is driving this violence, and what we can do to stop it before it starts?

I’m here today in my role as Our Watch Ambassador to talk about preventing violence and how we can make the most effective use of the media spotlight to bring about real change.

Research suggests that news coverage influences both public policy and public opinion on topics such as gender based violence.

A recent study in the US indicated that exposure to news articles endorsing victim blaming rape myths, makes people far more likely to side with a perpetrator and dismiss a woman’s claims of sexual assault.

We tend to focus, sometimes in a sensationalistic way, on the details of individual acts of violence, without joining the dots to a culture of gender based violence.

Upcoming University of Melbourne research looking at media representations of violence, commissioned with ANROWS and Our Watch, will tell us more.

In a space all too often dominated by unspeakable individual tragedies, I challenge the media to continue to work with us to bring about change, and I want to look ahead to an opportunity to celebrate change. But more on that later.

So, in my year in the spotlight, what have I seen?

I have seen great reporting that has shone a light on this important social issue.

My experience with the media has been largely positive, I must give credit where credit is due – thank you.
There is a lot we can and should celebrate.

Unfortunately though, it hasn’t been all good.

For me, the coronial inquest and the horrifying victim blaming that it brought to the fore, really enabled us to see victim blaming for what it was: a misguided and damaging narrative.

We have work to do if we are going to tackle the attitudes and beliefs that give rise to this violence:

She was drunk.
She was wearing headphones.
Why didn’t she just leave?
She must have provoked him.
Why didn’t she take her children out of such a violent situation?

These are just some of the assertions that blame survivors for the violence inflicted upon them.

Geoff Hunt, who murdered his wife, Kim, and three children, Fletcher, Mia and Phoebe, in rural New South Wales last year and then committed suicide was overwhelmingly sympathised with in articles that followed.

They emphasised the perceived “burden” of looking after his wife following a serious brain injury from a car accident and gave weight to quotes which described him as a “nice man” who “loved his family”.

News flash – nice men who love their family don’t control or murder them.

I’ve also seen atrocious headlines that openly disrespect victims, ‘Monster Chef and the She-Male’ and ‘Bride and Seek’ spring to mind.

This is frustrating for everyone, particularly survivors.

Challenging ignorant victim blaming like I did with Joe Hildebrand on Studio 10 last year, which, if you remember, made me a tad angry, must be something we all do. Perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions. Women are not to blame.

The other thing I have noticed, is that many panels on the TV or radio lack family violence experts, and therefore merely produce ill-informed triviality.

Depth of reporting is integral to family violence reporting which is why I chose Four Corners over shows that just sensationally skim the surface.

Just think of what we could all achieve when we work in collaboration with specialists. You’ll attract viewers/readers with informed stories, not just with shiny stories that dwell on human tragedy and sensationalism to draw an audience for the purpose of the advertising dollar.

If we want to create real change – and I truly believe many in the Australian media and much of the Australian public do, we need to see this sustained in a more informed media commentary. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are hugely important.

The media have an important role to play in helping shape attitudes, perceptions and knowledge that give rise to a culture of silence or minimise violence against women and their children.

And According to VicHealth’s latest attitudes survey, a significant proportion of Australians still excuse, trivialise or justify violence against women:

A growing number of Australians think that a victim is at least partially to blame for incidents of domestic and sexual violence.

And one in six think that women who say ‘no’ to sex, really mean ‘yes’.

Attitudes among young people are particularly bad. According to recent research commissioned by Our Watch:

  • One in four young men believe that controlling and violent behaviours are signs of male strength.
  • One in six 12-24 year olds believes ‘women should know their place.’

If we want to tackle this violence, to ‘stop it before it starts’ we need to tackle these attitudes and beliefs.

At the very least, please don’t re-inforce them.

The media has a great opportunity to help do this and bring about positive change.

A great example of this is Mindframe’s work in highlighting how reporting of suicide directly affects the amount of people who commit suicide, and how they carry it out. Reporting guidelines and links to Life Line and Beyond Blue are now widely used to great effect.

We must do more to help women and their children currently in crisis.

According to VicHealth, one third of women in the general community don’t know where to go for outside help to support someone suffering domestic violence.

This directly correlates to the lack of information about appropriate services published in articles about family violence.

Only 8% of articles mentioning domestic violence have included references to 1800RESPECT since the start of the year, according to the media monitoring platform Meltwater.

I challenge every single media outlet to include links to services such as 1800 RESPECT so that women reading know where to get help.

With small changes such as these, the media has the power to help many women and their children get much needed support and assistance, and to ensure that their stories aren’t lost.

We can work to change the culture that has seen, according to media reports, 41 women murdered in 2015 alone.

Australia is full of wonderful journalists, many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

In this dark space, we want to shine a light on the positive change happening here and celebrate you and the great work you do.

Overall, improved media reporting can deepen the understanding of what is driving this violence and what it takes to prevent it.

And we can prevent it.

To recognise and reward some the fantastic reporting that already exists about violence against women and to encourage other journalists and media outlets to follow suit, I am very excited to announce the launch of the Our Watch Media Awards, which we are proud to say will be administered by the Walkley Foundation. I would like to acknowledge Jacqui Park, the CEO of the Walkley Foundation, who is here in the audience today.

The inaugural awards are made possible with the generous support and funding from the Federal Government.

The awards will build on the approach and success of Domestic Violence Victoria’s Victorian-based Eliminating Violence against Women Media Awards (EVAs), which are widely considered to have had a significant impact on transforming media reporting in Victoria

I officially announce the Our Watch Media Awards open for nominations.

More information about the award categories can be found on the Walkley Foundation website and winners will be announced in September this year.

I ask you, the Australian media, to join me preventing violence against women and their children. And I invite you, the Australian public watching today, to continue to join in the national conversation we started just over a year ago. Together, we can stop it before it starts.

I look forward to celebrating excellence and change in September.

Thank you.

Media contact

For enquiries or further information: Hannah Grant, Our Watch, mobile 0448 844 930, email Hannah.Grant@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”

About Our Watch

Our Watch’s (previously the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children) purpose is to raise awareness and engage the community in action to prevent violence against women and their children.

Our Watch was conceived of and brought into existence in 2013 by the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Victoria. The Northern Territory, South Australian and Tasmanian governments have also since become members of the organisation.

Our Watch’s work derives from the government’s commitment to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 and gives expression to many of the activities in the Second Action Plan 2013–2016 – Moving Ahead.

Advertisements