State of Emergency: Violence against Women at Record Highs across Australia

State of Emergency: Violence against Women at Record Highs across Australia

This weekend gone, 26 and 27 April, thousands of women took to the stress in Australian capital cities across the country to protest violence against women committed in this country. They are urging Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, to declare a national emergency and a country wide epidemic on violence against women in Australia after 3 women were murdered this week alone at the hands of their partners. 

Year to date, 25 women have been killed at the hands of someone they knew. That is 11 more women who died violently in 2024 compared to the same time in 2023. That is 25 by April 2024, 14 by April 2023, and 11 by April in 2022. This data has been shared by Counting Dead Women.

Although Albanese hasn't declared a national emergency, and has avoided these questions when asked by journalists and the public spokespeople on this issue. Although, he has called it a "crisis" and at least acknowledging that one woman dies each week at the hands of someone they know or someone they are partnered with. However, in 2024, that figure has risen to 2 women every 9 days.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus gave an address at a sexual violence symposium and said there needed to be a "fundamental shift in acknowledgement that" overwhelmingly, violence against women in Australia was perpetrated by men. Although not a very brilliant observation, it is at least an acknowledgement from high ranking government officials on the importance of the issue.

The attorney-general said that to create lasting change, women could not be expected to solve violence against them alone. "It's time for men to step up," he said. 

Last year, the government used the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to announce a new online tracker that would provide quarterly updates on intimate partner homicides to enable police, governments, and policymakers to have access to "accurate, verified and closer to real-time data". This is a huge step forward, and even though it will only be live later this year, it will provide a platform for more real time data to help solve this issue at a grassroots level.

Of course the issue is much larger than "report it and be saved." The women that report crimes against them - or even have crimes reported by police or neighbours - have often suffered immense psychological and emotional abuse, which we know can alter the neurological functioning of the brain due to trauma, PTSD and their perception of safety and trust is deeply altered. 

For a woman in abusive relationships, especially long-term abusive relationships, we often forget the profound and complex effects on a person's brain and mental health. Prolonged exposure to abuse activates the body's stress response system, leading to the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Over time, this chronic stress can dysregulate the brain's stress response system, leading to heightened arousal, hypervigilance, and difficulty regulating emotions. When a person is on constant high alert, their nervous system is in overdrive and they prepare for and see danger everywhere. This is exhausting and the body cannot get out of that fight or flight state, meaning they often cannot formulate a plan, think logically or seek help. Their internal energetic resources are depleted and their system presents like it is cowering in a corner, hiding. Even if they are going about their lives with work or other affairs their brain and nervous system is in constant overdrive.

The brain's fear circuitry, particularly the amygdala, becomes sensitized in response to threat and danger. This can result in heightened fear responses even in non-threatening situations, as the brain becomes conditioned to perceive the environment as hostile and unsafe. That means that almost everything they see, hear and experience is laced in danger and fear. Making it really difficult to seek alternative help.

Studies have shown that exposure to chronic stress and trauma can lead to structural changes in the brain, particularly in regions involved in emotion regulation and executive function. For example, prolonged exposure to stress hormones can shrink the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making and impulse control, while enlarging the amygdala, leading to increased emotional reactivity. Where the victim has spent years, or months in abusive relationship, it is often the perpetrator's intent to erode self-confidence, self- determination and general energy in order to control far greater aspects of the person's life and will.

Furthermore, chronic stress and trauma can impair cognitive functioning, including memory, attention, and decision-making. This can manifest as difficulties in concentration, forgetfulness, and trouble making decisions, which may further exacerbate feelings of helplessness and dependency on the abusive partner. Abuse can also impact neurotransmitter systems in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, which regulate mood and pleasure. Dysregulation of these neurotransmitters can contribute to symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders commonly observed in survivors of abuse. Feeling depressed, anxious and fearful on a near constant basis makes it extremely hard to execute on executive functioning and as the prefrontal cortex continues to shrink, longer term abuse survivors find it harder and harder to leave the environment due to the structural changes in the brain.

Long-term exposure to trauma, such as that experienced in abusive relationships, can lead to Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). C-PTSD is characterized by symptoms such as emotional dysregulation, disturbances in self-identity, difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships, and a heightened sense of threat.In some cases, the brain may develop adaptive survival mechanisms, such as dissociation or numbing, as a means of coping with overwhelming stress and trauma. While these coping mechanisms may be adaptive in the short term, they can have long-term consequences on emotional and psychological well-being.

These issues are only exacerbated where there is financial dependence on the abuser. The economic impact of violence against women is also substantial. It affects women's ability to participate in the workforce and can result in financial insecurity due to factors such as job loss, reduced work hours, or the need to take time off work to address the aftermath of violence.

 As of January 2022, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, one in six women (17%) has experienced violence from a current or former partner, compared to one in 20 men (5.3%). This includes physical and sexual violence, as well as emotional abuse.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports that, on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner in Australia. Additionally, one in four women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner, and one in five women has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.

Violence against women has significant implications for their health and well-being. According to the AIHW, women who have experienced violence are more likely to report high levels of psychological distress, chronic health conditions, and substance abuse issues.

It's important to note that many cases of violence against women go unreported. Factors such as fear of retaliation, stigma, shame, and a lack of trust in the justice system contribute to underreporting.

We will be collecting and publishing anonymous stories of abuse survivors, but also those that are still deep within it. Sharing their stories may inspire more women to seek help and better solutions for themselves away from abuse.

If you or someone you know, needs help to escape violence or abuse of any kind, there are organisations and support groups dedicated to assisting women who are experiencing violence or abuse from men. These groups offer a range of services, including crisis support, counseling, legal advice, and assistance with safety planning. 

  1. 1800RESPECT: This national helpline provides confidential support and counseling for people affected by sexual assault, domestic or family violence. It operates 24/7 and can be reached by calling 1800 737 732 or visiting their website,, for online chat support.
  2. Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS): Based in the Australian Capital Territory, DVCS offers crisis intervention, counseling, and support services to individuals affected by domestic and family violence. They can be contacted on (02) 6280 0900 or through their website, 
  3. Women's Safety Services South Australia (WSSSA): WSSSA provides a range of services for women and children affected by domestic and family violence in South Australia, including crisis accommodation, counseling, and legal support. Their 24/7 helpline can be reached at 1800 800 098, or via their website: 
  4. Domestic Violence NSW (DVNSW): DVNSW is the peak body for specialist domestic and family violence services in New South Wales. They provide resources, advocacy, and support to frontline service providers and can help individuals connect with appropriate support services in their local area.
  5. Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research (QCDFVR): QCDFVR conducts research and provides training and resources to support professionals working in the field of domestic and family violence in Queensland. They also offer information and referrals to individuals seeking help. 
  6. Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre: Operating in Victoria, Safe Steps offers crisis support, information, and referrals to women and children experiencing family violence. They can be contacted 24/7 on 1800 015 188 or via their website, 
  7. Northern Territory Domestic Violence Helpline: This helpline provides confidential support, information, and referrals to individuals affected by domestic and family violence in the Northern Territory. They can be reached on 1800 737 732.
  8. Dawn House Domestic Violence Service
  9. Lifeline -131 114 (24 hours)
  10. DAIWS - Darwin Aboriginal & Islander Women's Shelter: 08 8945 2284 (24 hours) Website
  11. Domestic Violence Legal Service, 08 8999 7977 (Mon - Fri)
  12. Legal Aid Helpline, 1800 019 343
  13. NAAFVLS (North Aust Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service) 08 8923 8200 (Mon - Fri)
  14. Palmerston Family Crisis Accommodation
    08 8932 9155 (24 hours)
  15. Ruby Gaea (Darwin Centre Against Rape), 08 8945 0155 
  16. Sexual Assault Referral Centre, 08 8922 6472 (24 hours)
  17. Catherine Booth House, 08 8981 5928,


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