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Let's act to stop violence against women

April 14 2015 By NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA

​That Stephanie Scott’s body was found on the day she was meant to have been married is unbearable. The frustration and sorrow with which Australians responded to her death have highlighted the growing momentum for change and for the violence to stop.

Image of Natasha Stott Despoja Image

On the weekend, social media was full of images and stories of women who put their dresses out (#putyourdressout #rememberstephanie) as a display of solidarity with this young victim and her bereaved family and friends.

Her murder, and the news coverage surrounding it, also have exposed how we treat victims of such violence. Country journalist Joshua Lang wrote a column on the need for respect in reporting in these cases. He put a compelling case that: “Country journalists understand the need to respectfully cover stories like Stephanie Scott’s disappearance.”

Certainly, a small and close-knit community often means country journalists are more conscious of the effect of their words on people. However, I don’t suggest mainstream and city writers are not capable of such compassion. I just think some people have become desensitised to the way that cases of violence against women are portrayed.

The media have a critical role to play in community education and in influencing attitudes and behaviour on the treatment of women in society.

On a positive note, media organisations are working with Our Watch (the foundation to prevent violence against women and their children, which I chair) on a national media engagement project, to increase quality reporting of violence against women and their children through building awareness of the impacts of gender stereotyping and inequality.

On Friday, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) will discuss the issue of domestic violence.

The Prime Minister put the issue and, more specifically, the issue of national domestic violence orders, on the COAG agenda and has created an Advisory Panel comprising former Victorian Chief Com-missioner of Police Ken Lay and Australian of the Year Rosie Batty.

We must also remember the issue of sexual assault.

High profile cases such as Jill Meagher remind us sexual assault is prevalent. One in five women and one in 22 men have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 year (ABS). Australians are sick of the statistics. This is our national emergency.

One more message for media: stories about this violence should include a tagline.

If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic or family violence or sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.

In an emergency, call 000.

This story was originally published in The Advertiser