Thursday, December 18, 2008

AVOs - how to fix the broken system!

"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention!"

This is so depressing. Another woman killed after taking out an AVO. Melissa Cook took out an AVO. Her soon to be ex-husband shot her and then killed himself.

Last month the Herald revealed that at least 74 women and dozens of children die in Australia each year at the hands of violent men. Experts warn the real rates are even higher because of weaknesses in the way homicide data is collected.

Melissa's death will not be counted in these figures. As her husband is dead, he will not be charged. That's what is being counted here. How many men are charged. Not how many women and children are killed.

I've had some friends go through this recently and I was kind of involved in the recent campaigns against gender violence. It's not my favorite issue to get bent about but it's driving me crazy grumpy.

I have an idea. We should give everyone man, woman and child who applies for an AVO a mobile phone (or similar emergency beacon). Paint it bright yellow. Make the buttons big. Set it to contact emergency services only and the battery will last for about 3 months. They make pretty good location broadcasters too.

So, you ask for an AVO. While you're waiting for stuff to happen, you have an emergency beacon. Any time you set it off, police respond in person. There may be false alarms. Of course there will be! But imagine the deterrent effect!

If everyone expects the emergency AVO to be answered, then there will be far fewer attempts to threaten and harm. If we as a society agree that it is valuable to take an AVO seriously enough to provide some sort of real protection, then we start to change. The need for protection will decrease.

This would be totally cheap to set up from a technology point of view. A mobile phone will do it. The manpower to respond is the tough one. The NSW police force is trying to cut down on overtime due to extreme budgetary constraints. I also hear that more than 70% of police time is spent in court or on paperwork.

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