One woman is killed by a violent partner each week in Australia - it’s a terrifying statistic that celebrities including Sunrise’s Natalie Barr and Weekend Sunrise’s Andrew O’Keefe refuse to ignore.
‘There are still a couple of big things we don’t widely understand about domestic violence,” Andrew says. ‘Many people still ask, ‘why doesn’t she just leave?’, when the real question is, ‘why doesn’t he just stop?’. [Additionally] we need to offer her the means to leave.’
Andrew and Natalie are just two of the many stars supporting New Idea’s We Care campaign, which is raising money to provide victims of domestic violence with We Care packs. Consisting of everyday toiletry essentials including shampoo, deodorant, a pre-paid phone card, a toothbrush and toothpaste, these packs will be distributed with the help of Anglicare Australia, to women in need each day in 2016 – we’ve pledged 365 packs in total.
They are joined by a long list of local celebrities including Melissa Doyle, Kylie Gillies, WSFM’s Brandan ‘Jonesy’ Jones and Amanda Keller, Georgie Parker, Lynne McGranger and Fiona Falkiner.
‘Initially I wondered how much use a little gift pack of women’s essentials would be, but then I talked to some survivors of this horrible abuse,’ Natalie says. ‘I’ve realised it’s not only useful stuff, but when you’ve fled for your life, it’s a little symbol that someone cares about you.’
Domestic violence survivors Kim Gentle and Kay Schubach are also sharing their own personal experiences in an effort to shine a light on the epidemic’s long-term scars.
‘Sometimes you think you're fine only to have a trigger badly affect you,’ Kay, who lives in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, explains. ‘Like hearing someone's angry tone or feeling you're being overly watched at work and reacting defensively. My abuser caused me to lose my job and that derailed my career path. Many women change states or countries to escape the memories and the damage done to them. Never judge anyone who has been through abuse.’
In meeting Kay and Kim, who were both abused by Sydney man Simon Lowe who is now serving a 12-year prison sentence for raping another woman, and hearing their stories, Andrew and Natalie feel people everywhere can help to make a difference.
‘I wonder if a lot of us are really listening,’ Natalie says. ‘Like a lot of people, I wonder why they can’t leave the violence. It’s not until I really listened to these women that I started to understand how it could happen and how much of it is fear and self-loathing and an absolute firm belief that things will be worse for them and their family if they go, usually because of all the threats.
‘As a mum of two boys, I think it’s our responsibility to bring up the next generation to respect each other, men and women.’
Andrew adds, ‘Awareness is just the beginning. The next part is to have a good honest look at the way we all do things as individuals, and ask whether we sometimes contribute to the sexism, the inequality and the belief in male authority that underpins a lot of violence and controlling behaviour.’
Adds WSFM radio host Amanda Keller, 'I love this campaign because I know that a lot of shelters are closing their doors because of a lack of funding. Anything we can do to help women with their daily essentials is wonderful.'
Amanda's co-host Brandan ‘Jonesy’ Jones says, 'Having respect for women should be learnt from a young age, and it’s a conversation we need to have with our children today. The majority of guys don’t abuse women, but if they do, we need to make them accountable immediately.’
Melissa Doyle is yet another celebrity who has jumped on board to support the campaign, saying, 'We need these women to feel supported. The sisterhood can be an incredibly strong force, and this is one situation where we need our girlfriends to know they have our unconditional support. No judgment, no shame – just support, to give them the strength to do what they need to and once again feel safe.'
New Idea editor-in-chief Louisa Hatfield says, 'We decided to launch We Care because these women are often escaping crisis situations with nothing but the clothing on their backs.'
We aim to help one woman a day in 2016 – but we need to try and help even more women.
Please donate towards more packs by clicking on wecarepacks.com.au. As little as $5 can help deliver this much-needed service to further women around the country.