Reviewing Our Views – 2017 and beyond…

In 2016 the Hobart Women’s Shelter’s (HWS) assisted 197 women, children, providing a total of 7039 nights’ accommodation over the course of the year. This is an increase of 5% from 2015. In addition to the assistance we have provided, the HWS receives a number of calls which we are unable to assist due to limits in our capacity and funding, we call these calls and the women they represent “unassisted persons.” In 2016 we received 2088 calls from “unassisted persons” which, is double the 1045 unassisted persons we received requests from in 2015. In 2017 it is expected that the demand for our services will continue to increase, which means, that we as a community must work together to ensure that every woman and child in need of refuge is provided with the support she needs.

The HWS performs the work it does under a feminist framework, which means quite simply, we do what we do because we believe in equality between the genders. We believe that every man, woman and child is worth and deserving of safety, security and equal respect and opportunities. Somewhere along the way the term feminism has it seems be hijacked and ‘assigned’ a new meaning which implies a negative attitude towards males, and a desire to attack women who are ‘traditionally feminine’ or those who choose to be homemakers… this is frustrating and saddening for me as a feminist as it causes divisions within the community, and any time spent on creating divisions is time that is not spent on assisting the most vulnerable members of the community.

Feminism is defined as (1) “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and (2) “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests” the HWS believes in the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes and in order to achieve this, provides advocacy, support, and programs which represent women’s rights and interests as well as providing accommodation for women and their children who are escaping from domestic violence. One may ask how we can claim to be supporting the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes when we provide only services to women and their children – and not to men. The answer to this is simple: in order to achieve social, political and economic equality, women and children need more support than men. Men have had a head start. Women are suffering domestic violence, poverty, and discrimination at far higher rates than men, and as such, require more support to move forward from these obstacles.

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Domestic violence, sexual abuse and family breakdown in 2016 caused homelessness for 79.8% of our clients. Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children in Australia. According to Our Watch:

  • One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence, since the age of 15;[1]
  • One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence; [2]
  • One in four Australian women has experienced emotional, physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner[3]
  • More than half of these women have children in their care.

Comparatively nationally only 5% of domestic violence cases were reported to involve a female perpetrator, although men do experience domestic violence – reports suggest this often perpetrated in a same sex couple, but a male partner – in fact, women are at least three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner.[4] In order to achieve equality women require HWS and other feminist services organized on behalf of women’s rights and interests.

I have learned that many individuals – both male and female – are staunch supporters of the feminist agenda which inspires the work of the HWS, however, due to the “mis-definition” of the term “feminist” in popular culture may never have defined themselves as feminists. I hope that this article may inspire people to review the way they label their values in 2017, and take feminism – with it’s true definition – back, and wear it as a label of pride, working with us towards ensuring equal opportunities, rights and va
lue of men, women and children.

The HWS is pleased to be able to work with a number of businesses and organisations – staffed by both men and women – who share our feminist values (even those who are yet to define themselves as feminists!)
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[1] Cox, P. (2015) Violence against women: Additional analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey 2012, Horizons Research Report, Issue 1, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), Sydney; and Woodlock, D., Healey, L., Howe, K., McGuire, M., Geddes, V. and Granek, S. (2014) Voices against violence paper one: Summary report and recommendations, Women with Disabilities Victoria, Office of the Public Advocate and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria.

[2] Ibid

[3] Cox, P. (2015) and Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2012.

[4] In 2012, 17% of all women and 5% of men had experienced violence by a partner since the age of 15. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013), Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Personal Safety, Australia 2012, Cat. No. 4906.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Canberra.

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