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Dr Ann O'Neill addresses Media Stand Up Against Violence

November 24 2015 By Dr Ann O'Neill

This is a speech delivered by Dr Ann O'Neill on 24 November 2015.

Photo of Ann O'Neill. Image

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman, traditional owners of the lands we meet upon today and their elders past & present.  

What a significant opportunity it is to be part of this special day, when Media Stand Up Against Violence Against Women and their Children!  

When Our Watch and ANROWS publish a review of research - looking at the nature and impact of media representations of violence.

When it is the eve of the 16th - International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and 
the 24th White Ribbon Day, and I have the opportunity to speak here today - which is significant for many reasons I will tell you about shortly.

However first I must advise you that I do come with a warning label – violence, coarse language and the occasional sex scene – I ask you to please take care of yourselves if anything I say upsets you (given that many of you may have experienced or been exposed to FDV personally).

I acknowledge never before nationally have I witnessed so many people in positions of power have commit both their will and resources to preventing DV.

So back to why today is a ‘significant opportunity’ for me as a woman, a mother, a researcher, founder of angelhands, and why I chose not to say ‘thank you for the opportunity.'

I have said in many forums (and will continue to say) the role of a domestic violence survivor/representative is not one anyone signs up for or expects.  

I never expected to be addressing an audience such as you - especially on this topic, all I ever wanted was a loving marriage and a happy family…

I hadn’t expected to have an unhappy five year marriage, to be stalked for 18 months after I ended it, or to be lying in my bed sleeping with my two children, when my estranged husband broke into my home, shot dead our two children, shot me and committed suicide in front of me.

I hadn’t been prepared for any of this or for any of the things the society would do or what the media would say.

To wake up in my hospital bed after they amputated my right leg to hear the media saying I kept a neat cottage, that we’d been arguing, what a nice guy and loving father he was and that he hadn’t seen the children for months, even though he’d returned them at 6:30 after weekend access. That I had taken him through the FCWA for months, despite it all being by consent, that child support payments were to blame... was terrible – 
The only thing worse than having your family murdered is being blamed for it.  

The fact is that these stereotypical misinformed decontextualised stories/myths led to the finger of blame being pointed everywhere but at him - the man who chose to buy a gun, who for two months, planned and waited to meticulously kill a whole family – OUR family (not his). 

The most common question I got asked after this event was ‘what did you do to “make” him do that’?
I figured out a really smart ass answer to that, some fifteen years later: ‘I happened to be breathing, and I think that’s what really pissed him off’. 

Researchers across the world have found that this is not just my experience, that media rarely documented a history of violence by perpetrators, with a hyper focus on sensationalism, that is the method over the cause - as if it were more important for readers to know how but not why men kill their partners.

Over the years so many people have said to me “I heard/read your story but never expected to meet you.”   I tend to react to the word ‘story’, our family was not fictional, our children Kyle and Latisha are real, what happened to them is real, their loss of their right to breath and all the opportunity that goes with that gift is real.

I have always believed the saying that a problem is an opportunity in drag!  Thus, today’s opportunity is significant and I am delighted and elated that increasingly you the Media are Standing Up Against Violence Against Women and their Children!  That you are no longer telling stories about FDV.You are reporting on the reality of FDV!  

So here we are, on this remarkable day, with the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, so many senior representatives of the media and standing together, united in change -- committed to using their influence to accelerate the pace of change.

It really moves me to see how far we have come since that day 21 years ago when Kyle and Latisha, were killed.
This is an opportunity that I will say thank you for, one that I am so very excited and grateful to bear witness to.

It fills me with hope to see the Australian community from the top down challenge the culture of silence – the traditional view that domestic violence is a private matter, or, even more worryingly that this is something that happens “all the time” and therefore isn’t a story – is changing, and it’s changing fast. 

Violence against women has dominated the headlines over the past year as never before. 

Though I wish with all my heart we were NOT reading on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis about another tragedy, the impacts of which I and too many others know all too well.

To see the media are increasingly showing leadership, driving and sustaining a meaningful public debate.
A national conversation that honours and does justice to the experience of women who have for too long suffered in silence, some paying the ultimate price. 

As a researcher, writer and educator I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing and summarising what current research tells us we need to ASSESS when reporting DV into an acronym (ASSESS) so we don’t end up telling stories.

  • Avoid victim blaming or focusing on victim’s behaviours.
  • Stereotypes (myths) and Sensationalism must be challenged.
  • Sources must be carefully selected – expert voices must be included.
  • Excuses must not be offered for abuser’s behaviours.
  • Social context of abuse must be provided.
  • Sources of help and support listed in every report.

On behalf of women and children everywhere, those in your life now, those yet to come and those you may never meet, on behalf of my children and my four friends through DV - please use the research as the framework to ASSESS your Stance Against Violence Against Women and Children and by doing so you will not only change lives you will save lives!

Media contact

For enquiries or further information: Hannah Grant, Our Watch, mobile 0448 844 930, email Hannah.Grant@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”

About Our Watch 

Our Watch’s (previously the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children) purpose is to raise awareness and engage the community in action to prevent violence against women and their children.
Our Watch was conceived of and brought into existence in 2013 by the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Victoria. The Northern Territory, South Australian, Tasmanian governments have also since become members of the organisation.
Our Watch’s work derives from the government’s commitment to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 and gives expression to many of the activities in the Second Action Plan 2013–2016 – Moving Ahead.