Sister of murdered woman shuts down 'dirtbag' argument as Australia's violence problem rages on

Bianca Unwin has been advocating against gendered violence ever since her sister Katie Haley was killed by her male partner in 2018.

Bianca Unwin smiles on the right beside her sister Katie Haley.
Bianca Unwin (right) has been advocating against gendered violence since her sister Katie Haley (left) was killed by her male partner. Source: Supplied

The sister of a woman who was murdered by her partner is calling out the commonly held mentality about gendered violence in Australia, saying it is shifting focus away from the real issue.

Bianca Unwin has been advocating against gendered violence since her sister Katie Haley, 29, was murdered by her male partner in her Melbourne home in 2018. She constantly comes up against varying degrees of the same argument — people suggesting victims need to do more to protect themselves, rather than putting blame and responsibility on those committing the crime.

Recently she was questioned why men are being blamed for the number of women being killed by partners when "women choose [to date] these men". "If you don't want to be murdered then don't date the dirtbag," the man wrote online.

Unwin pushed back against those blaming the woman, not the offender, when domestic violence occurs. There are no tools available to offer women insight into their partner's past, despite advocates pushing for a violent offenders registry for years. Many women also find themselves in dangerous situations with partners who have not previously committed crimes, like in the case of her sister, so Unwin questions how women are supposed to "magically" know.

"A woman will be attacked while running and it's her fault for having headphones in," she told Yahoo News. "Or in domestic violence cases, it's her fault for not leaving, when statistically the most dangerous time for a woman is when they are leaving... women are damned if they do, damned if they don't,"

"They are putting that onus back on women, laying blame, rather than focusing on the perpetrator and condemning their actions."

Anthony Albanese announced on Wednesday the federal government's $925 million Leaving Violence Program to combat the issue which includes financial aid of up to $5,000 for women escaping a violent or abusive relationship, as well as a crackdown on misogynistic social media content and deepfake pornography.

However, Unwin believes subtle 'onus on women' messaging is present in the plan, which subsequently trickles down to the mentality of the public.

"For example, the Leaving Violence program that they're initiating, why is it that the person who isn't doing the wrong thing has to leave their home and potentially face homelessness?" she asked. "Why do they have to be displaced? Why aren't we removing the offender? It's allowing them to stay in the comfort of their own home and not suffer repercussions."

"It's the kind of phrasing which is being conveyed to broader society... government can lead by showing that we are not victim blaming, that we instead are holding perpetrators to account."

There are three things Unwin believes the government could enact to significantly combat gendered violence in the country, with all three putting focus on the offenders.

The first is a violent offenders registry, meaning any individual who has committed an offence would be included in a database which the public can search. This would make perpetrators accountable for their actions and give women a tool to make informed decisions.

"I don't know any women that would look up a name and say that there is a history of domestic violence or multiple violent offences against other people, and actively want to be in a relationship [with them]," she said.

Bianca Unwin holds up a sign which reads 'Not all men are violent but most don't call it out' at a gendered violence protest (left) and speaks to the camera (right).
Bianca Unwin said putting onus onto women is pushing accountability away from offenders and instead blames victims. Source: TikTok

She also called for ankle monitors to be implemented, meaning individuals who have breached an apprehended violence order (AVO) or are on bail from gendered violence offences would wear one, allowing authorities to track perpetrators.

The third is an educational program to be mandated in schools which would teach all school children about gendered violence, signs of it in a relationship and the consequences associated.

"We want to discourage it [gendered violence] from being the normal. And we want to stamp it out."

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