Australian women whose lives ended in violence are honoured

Annual ecumenical service at St Peter's Eastern Hill remembers victims and survivors of domestic violence

By Mark Brolly

December 5 2018The names of 50 Australian women killed this year as a result of violence were read out, and 14 unnamed women also remembered, at an annual ecumenical service at St Peter’s Eastern Hill on 2 December.

The "Holding the Light" service remembered victims and survivors of domestic violence and was led by the Vicar of St Peter’s, the Revd Dr Hugh Kempster, the Priest-in-Charge of St Alban the Martyr in St Albans, the Revd Carmel Hunter, and the General Secretary of the Victorian Council of Churches, Churches of Christ minister the Revd Ian Smith.

Ms Tanya Mathias, Community and School Engagement Officer with McAuley Community Services for Women (a ministry of the Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy), told the congregation that violence always took many forms, not only physical.

The main driver of violence was gender inequality, she said.

“It’s not a new thing… but I think in the past it was perhaps more relegated to the private (domain)... I guess one advancement today is that it’s seen as a human rights issue, it’s a human rights abuse. And it breeds in secrecy, so speaking out – it’s what we’re all doing today – is transformational, it’s incredible what it does.”

Ms Mathias said one in three women in Australia experienced physical violence after the age of 15; one in four children was exposed to family violence; one in five women had experienced sexual violence; and one woman a week was killed by domestic violence. “However, this year, it’s been well over one per week.”

She said violence was also an issue for men. “When we talk about violence against women, however, it does look a little bit different. Usually, violence against men is done by a stranger, it’s usually done in a public place and it’s usually done as a one-off event. And it normally gets a lot of headlines in the news. Whereas violence against women usually is perpetuated by someone they should trust and love, usually a partner, it’s usually recurring and it’s... most always in the privacy of their home.”

Ms Mathias said championing respectful relationships, defying gender stereotypes and challenging sexism were among the responses all could use to help end domestic violence.

The service concluded with members of the congregation coming forward to light a votive candle as a symbol of hope before closing prayers were said and sung and a blessing given.