KASAMA Vol. 26 No. 1 / January-February-March 2012 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Working in a domestic violence shelter

An extract from the WOMEN’S HOUSE paper read by ANA BORGES at the Brisbane IWD Rally on March 10, 2012.

Ana Borges IWD Rally Brisbane 10th March, 2012

In 1975 a group of women in Brisbane got together and formed an organisation to work for the liberation of women. This organisation became known as Women’s House.

These women were motivated by the discrimination and disadvantage experienced by women. The following words written by Joyce Stevens in 1975, goes a way to explain what angered them. A friend told me this may have been a song, I’m not sure...

BECAUSE our work is never done & under or unpaid or boring or repetitious
and we’re the first to get the sack
and what we look like is more important than what we do
and if we get raped it’s our fault
and if we get bashed we must have provoked it
and if we raise our voices we’re nagging bitches
and if we enjoy sex we’re nymphos
and if we don’t we’re frigid
and if we love women it’s because we can’t get a real man
and if we ask our doctor too many questions we’re neurotic and/or pushy
and if we expect community care for children we’re selfish
and if we stand up for our rights we’re aggressive and unfeminine
and if we don’t we’re typical weak females
and if we want to get married we’re out to trap a man
and if don’t we’re unnatural
and BECAUSE we still can’t get an adequate safe contraceptive but men can walk on the moon
and if we can’t cope or don’t want a pregnancy we’re made to feel guilty about abortion
and for lots and lots of other reasons
we are part of the women’s liberation movement.

Those feminists located subordination, injustice and violence experienced by women and children as occurring within a society where male dominance is normalised and men feel entitled to use violence to maintain their privileged position, This sense of men’s entitlement is reinforced by various institutions, such as the legal system, church, media and is also reinforced by cultural beliefs about the “proper” roles for men and women, the gender ‘roles’.

Violence against women is an area where things have not progressed in a way those early feminists might have hoped for. Violence against women still exists in epidemic proportions.

It is still the case that women still do not feel safe on the streets at night. Women still fear rape. Women are still bashed in their homes.

IWD Rally Brisbane Poster 2012

The pattern of violence against women is characterised by two main factors. First, most women are abused in private by someone they know, Second most of the violence is perpetrated by men.

At Women’s House we are confronted each day with the shocking reality of the violence, of the extreme degradation and humiliation perpetrated against women almost exclusively at the hands of men (The assertion, peddled by men’s rights groups, and taken up gleefully by the media that women are just as violent as men is simply not true). Every day we are confronted with the reality of women’s pain, their bruises and the shame they often feel because somehow they’ve been made to feel that it’s their entire fault.

At the same time our federal and state governments make it extremely hard for women to leave violence. It is increasingly difficult to obtain domestic violence protection orders, if those orders are breached, difficult to get police to act, police encourage men to take out cross orders even though men don’t fear their partner. Increasingly Child Protection agencies accuse women of ‘participating’ in domestic violence and remove their children based on that. We now have a situation where women who are being beaten will not ring the police because they fear their children will be taken from them. Changes in the family law act have resulted in more children forced into contact with violent fathers and Australian migration laws still leave many women without access to basic rights.

The final demonstration of the complete disregard for women’s needs is the treat­ment of Women’s Services in Queensland where the funds are not enough to cover the recently won Pay Equity case. Domestic Violence Shelters are told to cancel support groups and drop Community Education as they are not important and a Women’s drop inn service in Townsville faces the real possibility of permanent closure.

While organising this International Women’s Day Rally some people questioned if all the things we stand for here today were “Women’s Issues”. Working in a domestic violence shelter it becomes clear to me that these are all women’s issues. Police training is a women’s issue, Immigration law, employ­ment and education, government budgets and alternatives to capitalism … They are all women’s issues because they all affect women’s lives and women’s capacity to access safety.

Given this reality, our focus is to fight against the oppression of women every­where and in all areas. And we will keep fighting until we are all free.

Thank you!


1. “A History of International Women’s Day in words and images” by Joyce Stevens. “Because We’re Women ......” Written in 1975 for an IWD broadsheet, the words which followed have been republished on postcards, stickers, posters and t-shirts in Australia and overseas.

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