Lilie James’ tragic death is part of violence “epidemic”, as one third of Australian women report they’ve experienced coercive control

The Weekly's Voice of Australian Women survey brings to light some shocking statistics around domestic violence.

On October 26, Sydney woke to the chilling news that the body of a young woman had been found in an inner-city school. The violent death of “vibrant, outgoing and very much loved” polo and swimming coach Lilie James, 21, in the very place that should have been the starting point of a long and fulfilling career, was felt deeply across the city.   

As Lilie’s heartbroken family grappled with the loss of their loving, beautiful girl, more than 1000 people took part in a 10k walk through Sydney’s lower north shore to raise awareness of family and domestic violence . The annual walk, held this year on on Sunday, October 29, was organised by domestic violence charity Mary’s House Services, whose CEO, Yvette Vignando, warned domestic violence was “at epidemic proportions” and “an emergency.”

Women call for an end to domestic violence.
Women called for an end to violence against women in Melbourne 2019.

That same date of the walk, just before midnight, emergency services were called to a home in Victoria’s Kangaroo Flat where mother of four Analyn “Logee” Osias, 46, was found with fatal injuries. A man she knew has been arrested in relation to her death, but no charges have been laid.  The two killings followed the stabbing death of a 65-year-old woman on Monday, October 23, in Canberra. Her husband, 70, has been charged with her murder.

On average, one woman is murdered per week by her current or former partner in Australia, national advocacy body Our Watch reports.

Violence against women is still a scourge

The Weekly is all too familiar with this devastating statistic. Our Voice of Australian Women survey questioned women of all ages across Australia on their experiences of violence. The scourge of family and domestic violence touches women right across Australia, whether they have personal experience of it or not. Our survey heard 37 per cent of women had experienced emotional abuse, up from 35 per cent in 2007, when The Weekly last surveyed women. Seventeen per cent had experienced physical abuse.  

Many wrote passionately in the survey about the need to address the continuing high rate of violence in the home. “We simply must do something better,” one woman wrote. “This year, especially, has shown just how prevalent it is, with so many females murdered by partners.” 

The Voice of Australian Women survey polled women across Australia on their experience with violence.

The survey answers told a devastating story. Thirty-four per cent of women said that they had experienced coercive control in a relationship. From within that group, the most common forms of coercive control that women reported were emotional abuse (83%), social abuse (47%), physical abuse (42%) and financial abuse (35%).

Instances of coercive control were highest among women aged 35-49, with 41 per cent of respondents in that age group reporting they had experienced coercive control. Women from Tasmania reported the highest rates of coercive control at 46 per cent.

Women who said they had never experienced coercive control had experienced other forms of abuse. This includes emotional abuse (13%), physical abuse (5%) and sexual abuse (4%).

New Women’s Safety Commissioner appointed in NSW

In November 2023, NSW became the first Australian state to appoint a women’s safety commissioner. Previously, it was a dual role of women’s safety commissioner and executive director, women, family and community safety, held by Dr Hannah Tonkin, who was appointed in December last year. Now, Dr Tonkin will no longer have the latter role.

As the state’s inaugural women’s safety commissioner, she will oversee NSW government policy and programs on domestic, family, and sexual violence, and provide advice and support on women’s safety policy development and law reform.

“The creation of the stand-alone commissioner role will ensure that I am best positioned to deliver this significant remit and drive change to improve women’s safety, by strengthening interagency coordination and collaboration across government,” Dr Tonkin said.

Equality is the key to safety against domestic violence

When The Weekly conducted its first survey in the 1980s, family and domestic violence was not even canvassed. Family abuse was touched on only in the context of child abuse. Mothers were asked about hurting their children, or if they had been hurt as a child. There were no questions about violence against women, which again shows that awareness has grown in leaps and bounds. Now, that needs to translate into action.

As our respondents and experts identified, equality and safety go hand in hand. Economic security and freedom contribute more broadly to women’s safety.

“The gender pay gap is a conversation about inequality and how these inequalities and disrespect contribute to violence,” Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly says. “One of the drivers of violence against women is men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence … When women earn less, they don’t have the same economic or financial security as men. This can reduce the choices and the level of independence women have.”

If you need help, contact 1800 RESPECT.

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