News Sandy's Comments

Thursdays in Black

No doubt we are all shocked by the number of women who have died violently this year. In particular, the Ballarat region is grieving the tragic deaths of three women who have allegedly died at the hands of men – Samantha Murphy, Rebecca Young and Hannah McGuire.

According to the research group, Counting Dead Women Australia, 64 women were killed in violent incidents in 2023.

And domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women, with nearly half of those seeking homelessness assistance citing it as a reason, a report from Homelessness Australia found.

In every country and culture, gender-based violence is a tragic reality. This violence is frequently hidden, and victims are often silent, fearing stigma and further violence.

Violence against women is a widespread and serious issue in Australia. The statistics are staggeringly high:

• One in five women have experienced at least one incident of sexual violence.
• One in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by a man they know.
• One in four women has experienced emotional abuse by a partner.

This violence has deep and long-lasting impacts for those who experience it. Such violence is in stark contrast to the abundant life that God intends for us in Christ (quote from PVAW).

As Christians, and together as the Church, we are compelled by Christ’s love to challenge the attitudes, behaviours and structures that underpin violence and to work towards a future in which women and girls can live lives free from violence – and the fear of violence.

We all have a responsibility to speak out against violence, to ensure that women and men, boys and girls, are safe from rape and violence in homes, schools, work, streets – in all places in our societies.

The World Council of Churches runs a campaign, Thursdays in Black – for a world free of rape and violence. There are badges available. Rev Sharon Hollis, UCA President, is a WCC Ambassador for Thursdays in Black.

The campaign is simple but profound. Wear black on Thursdays. Wear a badge to declare you are part of the global movement resisting attitudes and practices that permit rape and violence. Show your respect for women who are resilient in the face of injustice and violence. Encourage others to join you.

[Wearing the badge always invites conversations, and spreads the word person by person by person…]

Often black has been used with negative racial connotations. In this campaign Black is used as a color of resistance and resilience.

Many churches are pro-active in offering programs and training in prevention of violence against women. An example is the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne run a Prevention of Violence Against Women (PVAW) program, to support and equip church leaders and communities to respond to and help to prevent violence against women. The Program is run in partnership with Anglicare Victoria, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and Lifeworks. The Program Manager is Robyn Boosey and the chair of the Program’s Committee of Management is Bishop Genieve Blackwell.

Further reading: We deserve a reality in which women’s lives count, not their deaths by Lauren Coutts and Chloe Papas

(A Thursdays in Black badge can be organised for interested people)