DAY TWELVE: I Never Ask For It: Building Testimonials to Gender-Based Violence

Over nearly twenty years, Blank Noise has worked with citizens and communities across India and beyond to build testimonials of gender-based violence. Blank Noise rests on the power of feminist collaborations and building feminist solidarities, writes its Founder-Director Jasmeen Patheja in today’s blog.

Jasmeen Patheja

Featured Image: Clothes from the I Never Ask For It campaign. Image credit: Jasmeen Patheja.

An idea has no significance or meaning unless someone makes it their own.

Blank Noise is a growing community of Action Sheroes/ Theyroes/ Heroes: citizens and persons taking the agency to end gender-based violence. Blank Noise was initiated in 2003 in response to the silence surrounding street harassment in India and globally. While for the first decade, Blank Noise worked to bring attention to street harassment, its next phase was an inquiry into the nature of victim blaming. Blame permeates spaces of violence. If blame has been used to justify violence against all identities and spaces, how can we be Action Sheroes everywhere? Not just on the streets, but in our power at home, on campus, at our workplace, on the internet.

In 2003- 2004, since the start of Blank Noise,  I reached out to women around me, to speak with me about their experiences of street harassment. Responses ranged from “it doesn’t happen to me”, “how can you ask me this question – I am not that type of a woman”, to “it happened to me, I was wearing my school uniform and it still happened.”  

The dominant climate back then was ‘good girls’ don’t experience it, don’t name it, and if you do experience it, you ‘asked for it’. Fear and the threat of street harassment was a given and normalised. 

The more I listened, I paid attention to the fact that garments were being recalled and named in testimonials.  I recognised that there was a pattern here in the way we narrated. The noticing became an inquiry. 

Nearly 20 years later, no matter where I go ( urban, rural or internationally) , I still ask the question “Do you remember what you wore when you experienced gender based violence? Is there an unnamed, yet unforgotten memory of discomfort where you remember the clothes? What makes so many of us, across identities and geographies, remember?”

The first 8-10 years of I Never Ask For It was about making the garment a ‘truth’ visible to ourselves and the public we engaged with through the press and media. We were recognising that women in all clothes, women across identities, age, religion or faith experienced it. We learnt to say #INeverAskForIt. 

Participants build the I Never Ask For It project at public sites. Image credit: Jasmeen Patheja.

I Never Ask For It has grown from an idea and campaign to a mission. The 2004 version of I Never Ask For It issued the first call to action inviting survivors of violence to bring or ‘discard’ the clothes they were wearing when they experienced violence.  We moved from the idea of inviting and encouraging survivors to speak to the campaign’s current phase emphasising, “speak if it serves you.”  

I Never Ask For It is a place for memory – to keep our memories safe. It works towards building ten thousand garment testimonials and bringing them to unite at sites of public significance. We share this number because we are motivated by what it would take to build this – the healing it could offer, the feminist solidarities it could initiate.

I Never Ask For It has been built slowly, iteratively, through the years. It has been co-created with feminist alliances and through listening. We ask ‘who is yet to be heard,’ and that drives how we design its path ahead. The practice at Blank Noise is located within socially engaged art practice and movement building.

I Never Ask For It behind the scenes includes workshops, campaigns, research projects, public actions such as ‘Walk Towards Healing’, Listening Circles, public talks and more. It has moved away from its early ‘myth breaking’ and making this truth visible approach to now claiming, “We are done defending. I Never Ask For It”. The garment is merely a witness. It bears memory. It was present at that moment. We believe there is power in bringing the garments together, standing united in solidarity; power in speaking if it serves the speaker. 

We are building testimonials, but who has the capacity to listen? I Never Ask For It is about learning to be a listener. It is an injustice to ask survivors to speak if we do not have the capacity to listen.  I Never Ask For It rests on building our collective capacity to listen. The burden of memory is not mine, or ours alone.

Over the years, I Never Ask For It has been shared at multiple sites including Ars Electronica – Austria (2005), Kitab Mahal (2006), Abrons Art Center (2017) , Ford Foundation Gallery (2018), and is now also at Khoj International Artists Association through their ongoing show called Threading the Horizon.

Watch this powerful video of their work here.

Author’s Bio

Jasmeen Patheja is an artist in public service mobilising towards the right to be defenceless. Patheja has worked to end gender based violence and victim blame for nearly two decades. She founded Blank Noise in 2003, in response to the silence surrounding street harassment.  She mobilises citizens and individuals to take agency in ending sexual and gender-based violence. Patheja designs methodologies (tareeka) to confront fear, fear politics, warnings, and victim blame surrounding sexual assault. Patheja works towards building the capacity to listen to survivors of sexual assault and the capacity to care.

Jasmeen works with multiple forms of media. She is also a photographer. She is a TED and Ashoka Fellow.

DAY SIX: Migration, mobilities and displacement: A view from the ground in Nithari, India

Sunalini Kumar writes about displacement and the disproportionate effects of migration on women in Nithari, a village of thousands of ‘urban villages’ in the industrial suburb of NOIDA (New Okhla Industrial Development Area) in India.

Sunalini Kumar

Featured image credits: Joint Women’s Programme

Nithari village is one of thousands of ‘urban villages’ in the industrial suburb of NOIDA (New Okhla Industrial Development Area), just outside India’s national capital, Delhi. Nithari presents a picture of congestion, overflowing sewage, narrow galis (streets in Hindi) and ramshackle, hastily erected tenements. Nevertheless, over the decades Nithari has become home to thousands of marginalised and poor Indians from North India and beyond.  

In the popular press – both Indian and foreign – economic liberalisation brought prosperity to the country and expanded opportunities for the poor. However, the underbelly of this growth has been devastating especially for those who were suddenly defined as ‘unskilled’. Women form a huge section of the category of the especially vulnerable, ‘unskilled’ poor in a phenomenon termed the ‘feminisation of poverty’ by economists.

Often illiterate, jobs like babysitting; elder care; and employment in hospitals and factories, which were previously open to them, are now denied under the modern, ‘corporate’ organisation of labour.  

Therefore, urban migration for women is different from the experiences of men who are generally literate and have a higher bargaining status. Migrant women find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of low wages and a sudden decline in status compared to their lives in the village. In Nithari, the Joint Women’s Programme – an autonomous women’s organisation established in 1977 – reports that despite their lower status, migrant women have become the primary breadwinners of their families. This is either due to destitution; domestic violence; or because their male partners are afflicted with physical and mental health issues. However, persistent cultural factors in these communities simply don’t acknowledge the reality of women as workers. Due to these long-term factors, the effects of the 2020-22 COVID-19 pandemic have been especially devastating in Nithari. Padmini Kumar of the JWP shared some examples of migrant women’s distress during the pandemic: 

‘Food on plate’ Image credits to: Padmini Kumar

A migrant labourer from Bihar, Rani was stranded in Nithari with her children. Her husband had gone to another district in search of work and lost contact with the family. With no money in hand Rani would stand in front of the gate of the emergency food ration service organised in the school run by JWP. One of the teachers asked her if she was looking for someone. She started crying and confessed that she and her children had not eaten for three days. They did not have a phone to contact anyone in their village and were staying under a stolen old polythene banner to protect themselves from the hot sun. JWP continued to give her food till the end of lockdown but lost touch with her post-pandemic.  


Omvati was working as a construction labourer along with her son after her husband had died due to a workplace accident. The contractor paid them a small token amount to cremate the body. With grief weighing them down they preferred to go back to their village. But the sudden lockdown had left them with debts and the contractor refused to give them their earlier payments. The single room they had rented needed to be cleared of dues. They were left locked inside the work site, with very little to eat and with no access to a clean toilet. After four days when they ran out of groceries, they started waving their clothes to try to catch the attention of passers-by but due to the lockdown there was hardly anyone in the vicinity. Out of hunger and exhaustion they were found semi-conscious by one of JWP’s community workers. Emergency first aid was given and they were taken to hospital. It was ensured that they were given food every day until the end of the lockdown. Later the JWP volunteers met the contractor to redeem a major part of their wage dues and the family was sent home as per their own wishes. 

There are many such stories in Nithari, like the ones shared above. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing economic fallout of it in India has elevated the ordinary marginalisation of migrant women in Indian cities to widespread destitution. This is a silent crisis that has not received the kind of attention from the government and the media that it needs.

In Nithari, migrant women are in danger of losing what little they had before the pandemic; and yet they remain the fragile pillars, on which their children and others depend. Without sustained intervention by the state, these women will become one of the long-term casualties of the pandemic, without even the formal acknowledgment accorded to other victims. Gendered violence takes many forms; Nithari’s women experience it not only directly, but also in its most insidious form through the uncaring patriarchal state.  

Author’s Bio

Sunalini Kumar is Associate Professor at the School of Global Affairs, Dr B R Ambedkar University Delhi. She was educated at Delhi University, JNU and Cambridge University. She has previously been Visiting Fellow at CSDS, Delhi and Fulbright Nehru Postdoctoral Fellow at MESAAS, Columbia University.

Sunalini’s research interests centre around urban and regional politics; gender and political theory; and the global south. Her publications are included in Critical Studies in Politics: Sites, Selves, Power (Delhi, Orient Blackswan 2013) and Urbanising Citizenship (Delhi, London and Thousand Oaks, Sage 2013). She is a contributing member of the widely read blog http://www.kafila.org.

DAY FIVE: “It’s not just the war that displaces these people”: care and containment for displaced survivors of sexual and gender-based violence 

This piece is based on the DiSoCo project, which looks at improving healthcare for internally displaced people in Somalia and DRC,and Somali and Congolese refugees in Kenya and South Africa. The authors reflect on their interviewees’ stories on sexual and gender-based violence and the repercussions on those who report these stories.

Rina Ghafoerkhan, Elise Griede, Laura Jeffery, Lucy Lowe, David Nieuwe Weme

Featured image credits: SIDRA Institute

… she actually complained to the camp leaders. And there was an NGO, that NGO helped her, she went to the police station and the guy was caught and, you know, he stayed in jail for two days. And since then, that’s when the abuse started. He rapes her constantly. As a punishment. So, you have the rule of law that is not doing its job. The government’s not doing their job, you have the NGO, of course they do help, but then they don’t look at the consequences. You’re not addressing the issue. And that’s why women don’t come forth, because it’s easier. Maybe it happens to you once. And if you keep quiet, then it stops. But then you talk and you get punished.  

These are the words of an internally displaced teenager in Somalia. They reflect the experiences of many displaced women too scared to report experiences of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) because of the repercussions experienced by those who do. Her account was shared with researchers on the DiSoCo project, which aims to improve healthcare for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and amongst Somali and Congolese refugees in Kenya and South Africa.  

Both Somalia and the DRC have been involved in decades-long protracted conflicts, and Somali and Congolese people have faced prolonged exposure to numerous human rights violations, including torture, sexual violence and repeated and often protracted displacement. During interviews, many people emphasised the stigma surrounding SGBV, sometimes as an even greater concern than physical or mental health, due to the social significance of female virginity and chastity. Several interviewees discussed concerns about the lasting impact that public knowledge of assault might have for survivors’ futures, such as being deemed unsuitable for marriage.

As a result, they suggested, a priority of many survivors and their families is to conceal the assault, in an attempt to avoid the shame and dishonour that often haunts survivors.  

Our interviewees discussed this process of concealment and containment as a response to stigma occurring on multiple levels. Firstly, several interviewees articulated that victims’ fears about other people’s responses might disincentivise victims from disclosing sexual violence to others, but that this containment might also result in social isolation. Secondly, in relation to containment within the household, interviewees noted that victims and their families might seek to restrict knowledge about the incident to a select group or even remove the entire household from the social setting by moving away. Both Somali and Congolese interviewees mentioned cases of people relocating – displacing or re-displacing themselves – in order to evade the stigma surrounding what had happened to them. One Congolese interviewee responded that: 

In some cases, they isolate themselves or they will be forced to go into exile, another village or into the city where again they don’t have the support system. So it’s not just the war that displaces these people…  

Thus, in displacement contexts in which social support networks have already been severed, household containment has the potential to compound pre-existing social isolation. 

Thirdly, strategies for containment at a community level via social institutions include transforming the violation into an ‘appropriate’ sexual interaction through marriage, seeking reparations in the form of compensation, or initiating retributive justice. Similarly, our research partners in Somalia found that a commonplace principal response to sexual violence is families and extended clan networks seeking compensation from the offending parties to the victim’s family (Boeyink et al. 2022, p8). This implies a framing of sexual violence not only as a mental health concern and physical assault for which the victim might warrant medical attention, but also crucially as a (dis)honour for which the victim’s family should be compensated.  

Prevalent norms surrounding sex and gender are crucial to understanding how victims, their families, and local communities react to experiences of sexual violence. Displaced populations face parallel challenges in accessing all forms of care because displacement ruptures and fragments support networks. This is compounded in cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), where perceptions of gender, violence, and sex among displaced and host communities are entangled with practices of care.

Our interviewees highlighted that gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and the availability of local support networks together inform the forms of social harm and potential care experienced by survivors of sexual violence. Without viable and accessible support and care, survivors of SGBV can be subject to repeat displacement, revealing the highly gendered, but often concealed, nature of forced migration. 

Authors’ Bio 

This blogpost draws on a journal article in preparation for publication. Its co-authors – Rina Ghafoerkhan, Elise Griede, Laura Jeffery, Lucy Lowe, David Nieuwe Weme – are based at ARQ International in the Netherlands and the University of Edinburgh in the UK. The co-authors are collaborating on a UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) research project aiming to help Somali and Congolese displaced people to access appropriate healthcare for chronic mental health conditions associated with protracted displacement, conflict, and sexual and gender-based violence. For more information about the project, please visit our website at displacement.sps.ed.ac.uk/ and twitter @gcrf_disoco 

 

DAY ONE: Welcome to 2022’s 16 Days Blogathon

This year’s annual blogathon brings together voices from academia, activism and the creative arts to raise awareness of this ongoing struggle. The blogathon marks a continuing collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Dr B.R. Ambedkar University, Delhi, and the University of New South Wales.  

Featured image: From UN Women – “In focus: 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence”

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence which runs from 25 November to 10 December, Human Rights Day. This year’s annual blogathon brings together voices from academia, activism and the creative arts to raise awareness of this ongoing struggle. The blogathon marks a continuing collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Dr B.R. Ambedkar University, Delhi, and the University of New South Wales.  

Our theme this year is migration, mobilities, and displacement. This is an urgent theme, both historically and given the current moment. We are living through one of the largest and most rapid forced displacements of our times with some four million Ukrainians fleeing to neighbouring countries. This is not the only example of forced displacement: across the planet, populations are on the move in search of shelter from war, extreme climate change, and political instability. Historically, as our bloggers note, the foundational violence of settler colonialism and racialized labor regimes have violently separated people from their communities, rendering them vulnerable to harm.

Through an analysis of both violence and the reparative work of care, this year’s 16-day Blogathon explores how people endure and negotiate gender-based violence in contexts of voluntary and coerced movement.  

Our blogathon follows in the tradition begun in 1991 by activists at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute. That decade was marked by an emphasis on gender in global development initiatives. In 1995, the UN held the Fourth World Conference on Women that adopted the Beijing Declaration with an agenda for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Where are the conversations today, thirty years later? As we curated the blogathon, we found that our interlocutors adopted a quite different approach to gender from the discourse of the 1990s.

One of our bloggers critically notes that “in the context of displacement, gender-based violence is often conceptualised as violence against women, meaning those who are cisgender and heterosexual.” Rather than considering women as the a priori subject of gender-based violence, our blogathon show how gender-based violence is produced in a range of institutional sites and contexts.   

This year’s opening blog is by Urvashi Butalia, well-known historian and founder of the feminist publishing house, Kali for Women. She writes about India’s Partition, drawing on stories from the time to raise questions about what ‘displacement’ means when, really, you have no place at all to call your own. Gendered violence is enacted through separations of land and people. 

Indeed, many of our bloggers show how forms of settler colonialism and war have displaced people from their land and their communities, thus fracturing kinship and intergenerational strength. Equally, borders act as technologies of violence, inviting certain laboring bodies and confining and isolating others—their spouses—whose labor of social reproduction is unrecognized. Moving bodies are also read as not “belonging” at certain times of day and night, as “foreign,” or “out-of-place” in certain spaces. We investigate a range of these spaces: refugee camps, crisis pregnancy centers, homes, and domestic shelters. Our bloggers draw on narratives – either from ethnographic research, personal testimonies, or literary accounts – of sexual violence in wars, and detail the racialized, sexualized, classed, and gendered dynamics of these forms of violence.  

Our bloggers also show us how a gender analysis can expose the problematic construction of the “ideal” victim in international humanitarian and legal discourse. Such a figure is mobilized by normative ideas of gender and sexuality. Through queer and trans perspectives, the blogathon shows how homophobia and transphobia necessitate migration and the cobbling together of community-based “safe spaces.” The lived experience of violence in migrant life is thus not experienced through the individual alone but distributed through the communities that marginalized migrants belong to. Despite what some of our bloggers named as the “inevitability of rape and sexual abuse” in the refugee experience, there are now vibrant networks that situate refugee voices as leaders in international decision-making fora.  

Even amidst the violence of war and border-making are forms of public and community art that enable survivors to bear witness and create art that gives form to experience and enables healing. We explore the feminist possibilities of witnessing and seeking justice through alternative courts and hear about the public installation of clothes of survivors of sexual violence. We explore the visual landscapes of art created in the aftermath of large-scale sexual violence during war. We hear the songs and read about the characters who have experienced gender-based violence during migration.  

We hope that our curation of this year’s blogathon leaves you with a multi-lensed analysis of how gender-based violence works through patriarchy, colonialism, war, and racialized violence.

We also hope that we can give you a sense of the crucial forms of care and mutual aid through which communities stitch together the resources and kinship that are necessary to survive and thrive amidst both the violence and the possibilities of mobilities, movement, and displacement. 

Content note: posts inevitably address distressing experiences and issues around sexual and gender-based violence. We hope they also provoke, energise and at times, serve to provide hope when it seems most bleak.

The 2022 curators:

University of Edinburgh: Dr Radhika Govinda (Director), Dr Hemangini Gupta (Assoc Director and 2022 Blogathon Co-Lead), Dr Zubin Mistry (Steering Group Member and 2022 Blogathon Co-Lead) and Aerin Lai (PhD web and editorial assistant) from GENDER.ED.

Dr B R Ambedkar University Delhi: Prof. Rukmini Sen (Director, Centre for Publishing), Dr Rachna Mehra (School of Global Affairs).

University of New South Wales: Prof. Jan Breckenridge (Co-Convenor), Mailin Suchting (Manager) and Georgia Lyons (Research Assistant) for the Gendered Violence Research Network.

DAY FIFTEEN: Does she have a voice? Do we hear her? The silencing of Indigenous women and girls experiences of violence: does it ever change?

It is widely understood that gender-based violence disproportionately impacts Indigenous populations compared to other population groups. Why are their lives not honoured or mourned or valued in the same way?

Kyllie Cripps

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article contains reference to community members who have died.

It is widely understood that gender based violence disproportionately impacts Indigenous populations in far greater numbers than other population groups (AIHW 2019). Available evidence tells us that Indigenous women are more likely to be the victims of homicide and  be hospitalised for injuries sustained as a result of violence (AIHW 2019, Bricknell 2020).

It is important to recognise that despite these statistics and the devastation that violence has brought to our lives and that of our communities, we have not been voiceless on this issue. There are countless examples dating back decades of Indigenous women speaking up and speaking back to the narratives constructed about our victimhood.

For example, the 1986 Women’s Business Report was the first report to ever consult Indigenous women on a national basis on issues impacting them at the time. It was a landmark report that highlighted issues related to violence, and the findings of that report still resonate with Indigenous women’s experiences today as June Oscar the Social Justice Commissioner so rightly highlights in her Wiyi Yani U Thangani Women’s Voices Securing Our Rights Securing Our Futures report released in 2020.

The problem is that in the public sphere, there have been active choices historically and contemporaneously, made about whether our stories, our voices should be heard.

It is as Professor Marcia Langton so aptly put it at the National Safety Summit in September 2021 “Nobody listens to us. They talk over the top of us”. Examples of this exist in several places. Certainly one only needs to read the powerful text by Distinguished Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson Talkin’ up to the White Woman, now in its 21st year of publication, to see how this has played out throughout our history.

Or contemporaneously to reflect on the 2021 debates on criminalising coercive control where the voices of our women were ‘talked over the top’ even despite us making it plain that the introduction of coercive control laws could detrimentally impact our women and lead to their further incarceration (see Watego, Macoun, Singh & Strakosch 2021). We know this because we have seen the law wielded harshly on our women and we are left to repair its damage.

Taking this a step further, we have seen public vigils, marches in the streets, national displays of mourning, speeches from political leaders decrying the violence inflicted on other women but never our women.

Leaving us to ask: why are our women unworthy of this attention? Why are their lives not honoured or mourned or valued in the same way?

An example of this is the death of Hannah Clarke and her children on the 19 February 2020 – Australia mourned, and our Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared to Parliament that “There are never any excuses – there are none – or justifications for the evil that Hannah and her children experienced – never – not under any circumstances”. Yet, when Aboriginal mother Adeline Yvette Wilson-Rigney was murdered with her two children on the 20th May 2016 there was no similar displays of public outrage. In fact, of the few media articles that were published most focused on blaming Adeline for the death of her children (Cosenza 2021, Dornin 2016, Lee 2016).

This is a common experience, we see the media’s engagement with us as ‘blameworthy victims’ responsible for what has befallen us; or they refer to Indigenous women as angry, aggressive and violent black women; irrespective of context, the harms our women have and continue to endure fail to be seen.

The public fails to empathise with our situations. They fail to support us when we say this is what we need. They in effect silence us. Amy McQuire says ‘silencing often works by not only silencing voices and testimonies of black women but by replacing the ‘silence’ with disclosure that is most palatable to White Australia’. It is most evident in the reporting of what takes place in court rooms, in criminal trials across this country every day.

For example, in the criminal proceedings related to the sexual homicide of Aboriginal woman Lynette Daley, from her death in 2011 through to the conclusion of appeals in 2021 preference was given to hearing and reporting on the offenders version of events in mainstream media outlets (See  Cripps 2021). The headlines during this period were nothing short of sensationalist ‘Rough Sex Death’, ‘Beach sex death – Mum of seven died after a ‘wild, drunken beach sex session’, ‘Review for sex death case’, ‘Woman had seizure after “wild sex”: Court’ (See Cripps 2021).

The devaluing of Indigenous women’s worth but also the exaggerated sexualising of our women’s lives and bodies demeans them to the public. Some might say but this case must of be an anomaly, sadly it is not. In Western Australia there is the case of Stacey Thorne who was also a victim of homicide in 2007. At the time of her death Stacey was 22 weeks pregnant. This matter has been traversing the legal system for 13 years. One element of the media reporting around this case was on the alleged offender’s characterisation of the relationship with the victim as secret, and that it was for the purpose of ‘casual sex’. This focus served to diminish and demean the victim’s reputation when she was no longer alive to say otherwise. It was also contrary to what the victim’s family victim’s family reported and knew of the relationship.

Silencing of Indigenous women has also occurred in trials when they have been charged with killing their partners after experiencing years of domestic violence. Many would remember the case of R v Kina – Robyn was an Aboriginal woman who had experienced years of domestic violence and sexual abuse from her defacto partner. On 20 January 1988 Robyn endured yet another beating but today was different – he threatened to sexually abuse her niece if she did not submit to the sex he was demanding of her. Robyn felt she had few options and she stabbed him. She was charged with his murder, she pleaded not guilty, her trial lasted less than a day. Robyn electing not to give or call evidence. She was then sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour. Her case would later be the subject of a long campaign to have her pardoned given the miscarriage of justice that occurred on the basis of ‘problems, difficulties, misunderstandings and mishaps occurring in the communication of her instructions to her lawyers’.

Many would have hoped we had learned valuable lessons from Robyn’s case, that systems had reformed, and that Indigenous women are heard and actively represented in such cases in the present. Sadly, I cannot say that that is true. In 2015 Jody Gore was sentenced to life with a minimum non parole period of 12 years for murdering her abusive partner in Western Australia. She, like Robyn, had experienced years of abuse at the hands of her defacto partner. What was interesting in this case was that the defacto partner also had mental health issues that the State couldn’t manage and who were relying in Jody to manage despite the threat of violence towards her. When self-defence was raised at trial it was not successful. It took an extensive campaign led by Associate Professor Hannah McGlade, Jody’s family and others to have Jody released pursuant to a royal prerogative of mercy, which revoked Jody’s sentence but not her conviction (See Deathscapes 2016-2020, Douglas et al 2020).  

The institutions referred to in this article are colonial institutions that are not neutral, they are deeply implicated in the continued practice of colonialism and framing of Indigenous women stereotypically, amplifying the precariousness of our lives to the exclusion of all else. They have served to normalise the violence visited upon us. They have also defined who is a worthy victim and who is grievable.

The detachment and indifference with which these institutions engage with the violence that we endure is deplorable. It offers little by way of support to change the status quo. But that is not to say that there is not hope in our women’s stories and futures. Having had the honour and privilege to work with many women over the years, the inspiration and motivation for addressing and responding to gendered based violence is in our communities.

Author’s bio

Kyllie Cripps is a Scientia Fellow and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law and Justice and Co-Convenor of the Gendered Violence Research Network at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. Kyllie as a Palawa woman has worked extensively over the past twenty years in the areas of family violence, sexual assault and child abuse with Indigenous communities.