15/12/2015 5:38 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Why Won't My Mother Be Counted?

Silhouette of a sad young woman
Andrei Spirache via Getty Images
Silhouette of a sad young woman

Counting Dead Women.

That such a campaign needs to exist in the 16th year of the bright new millennium is a depressing indictment on all of us.

To date in 2015, 78 Australian women have had their lives violently cut short -- the overwhelming majority killed by their male partner or ex-partner.

I have an intimate and personal knowledge of this subject. As a child, in the years following my parents' separation, I watched my mother suffer violence -- physical and emotional -- at the hands of different partners over many years.

I watched, helplessly, as she would regularly drink herself into a stupor to help numb the pain of the blows she knew she would receive later that night.

I fought back in vain, being pinned to the ground and ridiculed by a man immensely more powerful than me.

I shared her terror when one especially aggressive man broke in through the back door of our house, holding a knife, because he "wanted to talk". I was also there an hour later, when the police finally arrived and he was long gone, to witness a female police officer belittle her and trivialise her fear, admitting they would do nothing. "If you were so scared of him, why did you tell him you were here?"

I watched her slowly whittle away and die as the after-effects of the trauma and her way of coping -- heavy alcohol abuse and repeated suicide attempts -- finally and permanently took her away from us.

The Counting Dead Women campaign is an admirable, desperate effort by an inspirational group of people to highlight the savagery that widely exists behind closed doors in our community.

Yet my mother, and thousands like her over the years, will not be counted among the 78.

In the absence of a 'smoking gun', the men who abused her, terrorised her and in the end drove her to take her own life are not only free to enjoy theirs, but somehow free of any moral culpability for what they did to my mother.

We have a real problem with violence in our society, much larger than the 78 tragic deaths so far this year.

And -- and I'm saying this as a man -- it's the men who are causing it. Wholly and solely, we are the problem.

I'm tired of the 'real men don't hit women' clichés, the appeals to machismo and feeding the ego of men in the hopes that maybe they'll think twice before raising a hand to a woman. It's as though beating women is a quaint pastime we'd rather move on from, like littering, smoking or watering your front garden on the wrong day.

Violent men don't deserve to have our egos stroked, they deserve a prison cell.

If 78 Australians had been killed this year in random shootings or bombings, you could bet on a swift, decisive, government response. Wars would be declared, perpetrators relentlessly hunted down and punished using the full force of the law.

78 women dead. Most predictable; many, sadly, preventable. The warning signs were there, the will and power to intervene were not.

This has nothing to do with men needing to be 'real men' (whatever that means), and everything to do with our institutions -- our governments, our courts and our police -- finally saying 'enough is enough' and taking real action to protect those that are living their lives under constant threat.

It's about using our resources to provide a safe haven when it is needed, so that women no longer have to be turned away, as my mother was, from her only available refuge because I, her teenage son, needed refuge too.

It's about our leaders admitting we have a national addiction to beating our women.

And it's about us men taking a long, hard look at ourselves and realising that it is our responsibility, collectively, to value and protect the more vulnerable people in our lives, even at the expense of our fragile egos.

If we aren't part of the solution, we are part of the problem. And right now, we are not acting like part of the solution.