Violence against women is a serious global issue. To raise world-wide awareness and promote prevention, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. On the same date is'White Ribbon Day' - a further plight to stop violence against women before it happens by engaging and educating men.
Whilst we have seen some progress being made, particularly in terms of awareness and prevention, more needs to be done. The statistics speak for themselves:
- On average, one woman is killed every week by an intimate partner/former partner
- Intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and ill-health in Australian women aged 15-44
- One in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence by someone known to them
- One in five women experience harassment in the workplace
- Violence against women is estimated to cost $21.7 billion a year.
The case of Matthews v Winslow Constructions  VSC 728, is one of the worst examples of violence against women in the workplace. In this case, Kate Matthews was subjected to abuse, bullying and sexual harassment - including threats of being raped - during the course of her employment as a labourer with Winslow Constructions.
34 years old at the time, Ms Matthews consequently developed a severe chronic psychiatric condition. A claim of negligence was brought against the employer, alleging a failure to provide her with a safe working environment. The employer initially denied liability and alleged contributory negligence. For Ms Matthews, this meant she had to run to trial and relive her case. At the commencement of the fifth day of hearing, the employer admitted negligence. Ms Matthews was ultimately awarded $1,360,027 for pain and suffering and loss of earnings.
Whilst Ms Matthews pursued her court action for compensation through the provisions of the WorkCover laws, this option is not always available for people who have not sustained a permanent severe psychiatric injury. Alternatively, employment law avenues may be available and advice should be obtained from an employment law expert as soon as possible.
Any form of violence is unacceptable and preventable. I am hopeful that by educating and raising awareness for our future generations we will improve and stop all forms of violence against women.
We must all take a stand to drive change.