House debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021


White Ribbon Day

9:47 pm

Photo of Lucy WicksLucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Last Friday was White Ribbon Day. This is a day that's really helped to raise awareness and to see domestic violence recognised for what it is: a crime. On the Central Coast, local community groups have organised events and art installations to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which is an international campaign that takes place each year. Zonta Central Coast created the Yarn Bomb art installation in Terrigal, which will run until 17 September. Eighteen of the iconic trees along the Terrigal foreshore will be clothed in bright colours, drawing attention to messages of anti-violence. In addition, our Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, will be the keynote speaker at the Central Coast Domestic Violence Committee inaugural dinner next month. One of the Central Coast's domestic violence advocates, Angela Howes, has organised a show, Comedy for Courage, which will be on 3 December and will raise funds for domestic violence services in our region. I look forward to joining with my community at some of these events.

In Australia, one in four women and one in 13 men experience physical, sexual or emotional violence at the hands of a partner. On the Central Coast, police are seeing a rise in reported incidents of intimidation, harassment, stalking and sexual assault. When we talk about violence and abuse in relationships, we speak a lot about the physical and financial abuse aspects. These are aspects that can often be identified and seen in a way that others who perhaps have not experienced this can somewhat relate to and understand. However, emotional and verbal abuse also can impact a person's life in profound ways and have a very, very long-term impact.

Tonight, I wanted to raise awareness of this aspect in the House. Experiencing this kind of abuse feels like being torn apart from the inside. The scars are invisible. Your reality becomes skewed until you are left taking ownership of the problems in the relationship just to try to stop the terror. It takes away your dignity, your strength, your safety, your sense of agency, your sanity and sometimes your health. You can lose your entire sense of self, sometimes without a single mark or bruise. The wounds are not left on your body but on your soul, spirit and very sense of self.

Emotional abuse is similar in that it plays into deep-seated fears of rejection, abandonment, unworthiness and shame, and it happens in secret, with victims often masking the abuse they are facing in order to protect their abuser. It escalates as a victim learns to adapt and reason with it over time, which leaves them in a situation where they are increasingly isolated and feeling very vulnerable. Sometimes it includes soul-destroying tactics such as gaslighting, projection or trauma bonding. Gaslighting involves manipulating a person by forcing them to question their thoughts, memories and the events occurring around them. Someone who is dealing with gaslighting can be pushed so far that they question their own sanity. Projection is the art of placing unacceptable feelings or wants on to another person or accusing that person of behaviour or motivation that is actually the motivation and behaviour of the perpetrator, not the person they accuse. Trauma bonding is where the abuse of a victim leaves a toxic bond that is incredibly hard to break. It's used by the perpetrator to control, manage and manipulate the other person, sometimes even taunting them about its very existence and blaming them for the ways they hold their victim captive.

We need to encourage greater awareness about these forms of abuse, expose them for the insidious acts they are and recognise the long trail of destruction this type of abuse can leave so that we can better support those who spend years trying to heal from invisible brokenness and the trail of terror and destruction it can leave behind for the victim to make sense of. We also need to acknowledge and find ways to help people leaving domestic violence to recognise they're not just building a new life but restoring their very sense of self and identity. This process is hard and takes longer than perhaps is often recognised.

The scars of men and women who have lived through abuse cannot be taken away by any legislation or act in this place alone; however, what we are doing as a government to help provide victims with tools and support to enable them to leave abusive relationships is a positive step forward. I know that we need to do more in this regard, but I commend the government for what it has done to date. I urge them to continue to work towards the goal of ending domestic violence for good in this nation.