On Women Who Don't Go to The Police

**TRIGGER WARNING: Discussions about sexual violence; links to articles which contain graphic descriptions of sexual violence; discussions about victim blaming; discussions about domestic violence.**

Maybe it's the fallout from Kesha's recent court case in which she was denied an injunction which would have allowed her to legally break her recording contract with her alleged abuser.

Maybe it was watching footage of Lady Gaga's performance at The Oscar's, reading the stories of the people who took the stage with her, and seeing the footage today of Brie Larson hugging every one of the 50 survivors as they walked by.

Maybe it's having read articles about the levels of abuse within the Catholic Church, and the continuing Royal Commission into the actions of Cardinal George Pell specifically in dealing with survivors when they came forward.

Maybe it's just the lack of good quality sleep I've been dealing with over the last week, but my anxiety has been on high alert lately. I spent a good chunk of yesterday in my pyjama's, listening to the music that got me through my 20's, feeling too many feels, and crying on and off.

Of course, it may have also had a lot to do with the near constant yelling and arguments that have been going on outside our apartment for almost a week. Late on Sunday night, after I had fallen asleep, shit escalated to what I determined as, "Next Level Scary". While I have always struggled with falling asleep, I have been known for my ability to sleep like the dead once I'm out, so take this as an indication of just how loud things were.

Just after midnight, I woke to the sound of car horns going off, the tram driver who had stopped outside our apartment was ringing the bell angrily (which if you've ever heard a Melbourne tram bell, you'll know is about the most ridiculous warning sound ever), a whole lot of rage and one of the women who lives in the house next door screaming out for help.

Things went deadly silent almost instantly, which scared me the most.

I sat up groggily and grabbed my phone and saw that one of our neighbours had sent a group message to everyone in our building about how violent things were sounding outside. I wrote back about what I'd heard and that I was calling Triple Zero.

Now, bear in mind that there are less than a handful of houses between our building and the Police Station, so I tried calling them first and only got the answering machine before I called Emergency Services.

I sat up for the next hour hoping the police would show up. Knowing that on a prior occasion people in our building had called Triple Zero four times in one night over a situation outside that went on for hours, and every time the operator had assured that Police would be sent, but they never arrived. Suffice to say, I wasn't feeling very confident, especially considering that the noise had already died down when I called.

I don't think the Police showed up.

And this gets to the heart of what I want to talk about.

Ever since the outcome of Kesha's injunction case, critics have been quick to jump on top of the fact that the alleged abuse was never reported. Dr. Luke (not a real doctor) has never been charged, and there has never been a criminal investigation. All this, they say is proof that Kesha is making everything up. Dr. Luke's own attorneys' claim that this is a deliberate, defamatory ploy by Kesha to destroy the producers' reputation, and an attempt to get a more lucrative deal working elsewhere.

Here is Australia, our Federal Government recently introduced new measures aimed at reducing the threat of domestic violence women face.

In a country with strict gun control laws (which have had a dramatically positive impact on over all safety), it seems atrocious that 79 women were killed by a partner or ex partner last year alone. This years death toll already stands at 9 women. Reports upon reports have been filed on investigations into the causes and responses to this issue. The economic impact of domestic violence runs into unthinkably high numbers annually - let alone the human cost, or the impact on the safety and wellbeing of children.

These reports; sustained public outcry; campaigning and ongoing activism by outstanding women including then Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, led to the Prime Minister making an impassioned speech about the right of women to live without fear of physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse. The government moved to re-allocate of some of the funding which had been stripped from effective ground-level services which supported women escaping abusive situations to new and untested measures. We live in an environment where we're told that police are receiving new levels of training on how to deal with domestic abuse and sexual violence. We're told that we live in a Post-Feminist society, where we've got the vote and the right to work and things are nowhere near as bad as they are elsewhere (often meaning the Middle East - either inferred, or outright stated).

And yet six months later, I found myself calling the police as a bystander - something we're told that we have a responsibility as citizens to do, and having very little confidence that they would even show up.

What the hell does that say?

When a white woman who lives with a hell of a lot of privilege can't even feel assured that anyone will be sent.

I haven't seen the woman I heard screaming in the street since I made the call.

Much has been said and written of the bystander effect - hell, I've written about the bystander effect and how important it is to take whatever action it is safe to take to prevent bullying or violence when we see it.

Yet in comparison to the time I witnessed an attempted car jacking last year, the police response in this situation was thoroughly disappointing.

So much for the old Howard Era slogan that's long become a meme, "To Violence Against Women, Australia Says NO".

Roughly a year ago, I recorded a video talking about my own experience of living in an abusive relationship, and it might surprise some of you to know that I never reported it.

Even at the time, I knew that the likelihood of charges being pressed, let alone a conviction were basically non-existent (I actually laughed at a friend when he asked me if they went to prison), so I figured it was not worth the hassle of going to the police.

Does that mean that it never happened?

No.

Does the lack of a police report invalidate my experience?

No.

Does this make me at least partly responsible should they hurt anyone else in the future?

No, but I'd be lying through my teeth if I said that I don't feel like shit about this possibility from time to time.

Does not reporting abuse make us less deserving of feeling safe in our homes, at work, or in public?

The answer here should be NO, everyone deserves to feel safe and happy.

However, the reality is that society is far less convinced.

While the default response when someone opens up about their experience of assault should be to BELIEVE THEM, so often we're quick to jump to doubt. Rape culture is SO entrenched in society that one of the first questions I personally received from someone I loved and trusted was, "Could you have stopped him?"

When these are the responses we get from people who know us, then factor in the often over-inflated assumptions about the frequency of false rape reports, (only 2-8% of REPORTED rape cases are found to be false) it's no fucking wonder that women are reluctant to report abuse.

This doesn't even take into account additional factors like class, age, racedisability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or past interactions with law enforcement - and when we consider that not even women like Gwyneth Paltrow can be granted protection from their alleged stalkers, it all seems totally, infuriatingly pointless.

It also ignores the risk that women take by coming forward when the most dangerous time period for women is actually when they are leaving an abusive partner.

It blows my mind that people presume that women have anything at all to gain by coming forward about the abuse they experience, or deliberately making false reports as a means of extortion is actually beneficial (although this doesn't minimise the fact that it does occasionally happen, and it does have a terrible impact on everyone, including legitimate victims of sexual assault) - especially in Australia where the burden of proof lies with the prosecution.

While I'm not entirely sure how I feel about Lady Gaga's performance at The Oscar's, or her public support of Kesha given her past collaboration with alleged abusers R. Kelly and Terry Richardson, I can't say that I think her public stance is a bad thing. Whether her performance was tokenistic or not, I believe is up to the people who took the stage alongside her, and the message is one that Hollywood still hasn't totally accepted. I'm not in the business of pushing my own expectations for how women - especially survivors should or shouldn't engage with an issue. As my best girl Emma says, "we can't know other people's trauma" or their potential triggers.

I am grateful that The Hunting Ground has made such an enormous mainstream impact, and I believe that this can at least in part be attributed to Gaga's involvement.

I'm happy to read that the experience of sharing the stage with her at The Oscar's seems to have been a positive one for the 50 survivors.

And I honestly have to admit that I resonated so hard with Gaga's Instagram post about her relationship with her fiance, Taylor Kinney.

For years, I wrestled with overwhelming sense of doubt as to whether or not I would feel comfortable letting anyone close again - let alone ever feeling love.

I am grateful that I have a partner who while he's not perfect, to a large extent he gets it, and when he doesn't, he shuts up and listens. He takes me seriously and doesn't mock me when my anxiety flares up like it has this week, rather he asks me if there's anything he can do to help.

Right now, all I can say is that I'm putting some of the techniques I learned through Coach School, as well as a whole lot of Real Self Care (like taking a couple of days to really process what's going on for me; meditating; getting to bed early; and taking myself out for lunch) to make sure that I'm doing okay, rather than over committing.

Things will be okay. I'm making a point of talking them through, and continuing to speak up. I'm hoping that things in the neighbourhood calm down a bit, but that they don't stay too quiet.