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Online campaign calls for Canberrans to take action over domestic violence

Canberrans have been urged to speak up and take action if someone they know is a victim or perpetrator of domestic or sexual violence.

The city's social workers, womens' rights advocates and politicians have embraced an online call to action over the one in three Australian women who experience violence in their lifetime.

Women's groups have launched the What Can You Do? website and social media campaign as part of this month's International Women's Day celebrations.

The website includes information on the prevalence of domestic violence in Canberra, as well as tips on how to teach children violence was not acceptable, how to support women who disclosed abuse, what could be done in workplaces and advice on how to challenge friends on unhelpful attitudes or behaviour.

The accompanying social media campaign uses the hashtags #whatcanYOUdo and #stopthe1in3 on Facebook and Twitter.

The website was developed by the Women's Centre for Health Matters, Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT and the ACT Women's Legal Centre.  


Women's Centre for Health Matters executive director Marcia Williams said the campaign was designed to encourage members of the community to think about what they could do to help drive down rates of violence. 

One in three women over 15 reported they had experienced physical or sexual violence, which translated to more than 52,000 ACT women, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics' 2012 personal safety survey showed. 

One in six had experienced sexual or physical violence from a current or former partner, or the equivalent of about 26,000 territory women.

Ms Williams said there was little point providing a range of services for victims of domestic violence if they weren't supported by community attitudes which encouraged women to get help.

"You often hear people say domestic violence is a private matter, it's not something you should get involved in, or they might hear it happening in the house but they don't want to intervene. Or you get people who say it doesn't happen in the ACT.

"It's about saying if you hear it, call it and if you're not sure report it just in case.

"You can intervene in a way that keeps you safe."

Ms Williams hoped the website would highlight the various services available in Canberra for those affected by family violence.

"I think it probably also helps family and friends who might think they know someone who is in a relationship where that's happening as to how they might broach it with them.

"Because it is hard, you don't want to be seen to wade in but this might help them think about what kinds of first steps they can take."

Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT executive director Mirjana Wilson said support workers often only had contact with people who had been able to report their abuse.

"The people who are suffering it need us to stand up and get involved, because people don't necessarily put their hand up and say, 'I'm a victim of domestic violence'. 

"It actually needs the neighbour who's hearing the screams to phone police, or the boss to ask a few more questions, or someone from the child's school to say they've noticed what's happening and to ask how they can support your family around it."

Domestic violence service providers and support workers in the ACT have juggled a huge surge in demand for services with cuts to funding in recent years.

Momentum has built for swift action and greater financial support for the cause in the wake of the killing of Canberra mother Tara Costigan earlier this month.

Speaking at the campaign's launch, ACT Women's Minister Yvette Berry expressed a desire to work with local experts in domestic violence policy, service delivery and legal matters to come up with a viable solution.

"I don't think it's a government-only issue here, it's certainly a community issue and a social issue and we need to do that together." 

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