When looking into violence against women in Australia in a previous assignment, I was so shocked by the statistic that 1 in 3 Australian woman had experienced physical violence, and even more shocked to learn that value is equal to the physical violence experienced by women in the United States as well (Australia’s national research organization for women’s safety, 2015). It is alarming to think in my immediate family of my father, mother, sister, and me, statistically one of us will be the recipient of physical violence. I believe that this statistic alone provides evidence that the way in which this violence against women is handled, treated, culturally viewed, and punished needs reform desperately across the globe.
The feelings of shame, responsibility, and embarrassment by victims of any kind of violence seem to reflect the criminal, or social aspect of viewing violence against women. When people feel this way about an incident of violence, more than likely, they are not looking at it through the lens of it being physical and emotional trauma, but more of a cultural event that is inevitable, and ones own fault.
Biomedicine is a system based on biological and chemical knowledge of human bodies aimed on healing individual’s verses populations, which until recently had left the mental effects of violence out of the equation. Violence is viewed as a crime, often being underreported, 58% of Australian women in a study conducted in 2012 by ABS Personal Safety Survey and Australian Institute of Criminology, had never contacted the police following an incident of violence, and 24% never sought advice or support (Australia’s National Research Organization for Women’s Safety, 2015). This goes to show that violence is often failed to be treated as a criminal act, nor as a health related issue leaving recipients of this violence in a hopeless and helpless place.
When violence is ingrained into a society’s culture, it becomes difficult to break the cycle. In the same survey conducted by the ABS, 61% of female victims had children in their care when the violence occurred, 48% stating the children had heard or seen the violence (Australia’s National Research Organization for Women’s Safety, 2015). This engrains the intergenerational trauma cycle into the younger generation, making it more ‘normal’ to see, and even experience themselves. It goes against the concept of biomedicine because while witnessing violence increases ones chances of themselves being in a violent situation, it is not a chemical physical change in the body. With biomedicine being aimed at treating the individual, not the population, it ignores the cultural view of violence, and does very little in preventing the act of violence from occurring, but more attempting to treat the physical and emotional effects once the trauma has already occurred.
Interestingly, state and territory governments in Australia have developed a 12-year National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 (Women’s Safety, 2010). Their focus is specifically reducing domestic violence and sexual assaults, emphasizing the need to stop violence before it happens, support those who have experienced it, stopping men from committing violence, and building an evidence bank to see exactly what works and what does not in reducing domestic violence and sexual assault (Women’s Safety, 2010). By looking into this 12-year plan, it is clear that Australia’s government is acknowledging that violence against women is an important issue that needs to be addressed, and that current ways of dealing with violence is insufficient. This reinforces that our current understanding of illness, health, and medicine hugely revolves around not just the physical, but the mental health and wellbeing of others.
UN Women acknowledge that the main root of violence against women is gender inequality (Violence Against Women, 2010). This proves the balance of violence being a health issue, as well as a social issue. How can any society expect to see change regarding violence against women without total social reform? And how quickly can any society expect these gender norms and gender inequality to change? For these reasons, tackling violence against women will be an expensive project to provide all of the social, governmental, and criminal reforms that need to take place; as well as a very time consuming project, gender norms take hundreds of years to form, and take even longer to deconstruct, and reconstruct.
With all of these reforms and efforts, the way all societies’ view violence on women will acceptingly be viewed as a health issue, and that new forms of treatment will continue to arise until rates of violence on women is significantly decreased.
The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022. 2010. Woman’s Safety. Australian Government Department of Social Services. Dss.gov.au, retrieved 31 July 2015.
Violence Against Women. 2010. UN Women National Committee Australia. Unwomen.org.au, retrieved 31 July 2015.
Violence Against Women: Key Statistics. Australia’s National Research Organization for Woman’s Safety to Reduce Violence against Woman and their Children. Anrows. Anrows.org.au, retrieved 31 July 2015.