Counting Dead Women

Katie Thorburn speaks to Annalise from the 'Counting Dead Women' project.

The ‘Counting Dead Women’ Facebook page has cycled through many cover photos this year. When this article was first being researched, the cover photo was a graphic ‘11’, a number that reflects the amount of women who have been killed in Australia this year. Sadly, the current cover photo will soon be outdated.

‘Counting Dead Women’ is a project run by the moderators and researchers of Destroy the Joint, a feminist Facebook page. The page records and publicises the number of women killed in Australia in any given year. Whilst not solely focusing on domestic violence cases, most of the women they count are killed by men– by men they know.

When I messaged the Facebook page, I received a reply from an admin called D3, who later revealed her name to be Annalise. Page moderators adopt anonymous online personas because, as an outspoken feminist group, they have experienced doxxing attacks in the past.

“Australia has got blinkers on when it comes to the reality of intimate partner violence (IPV),” Annalise told me. “It is absolutely a gendered issue – it’s overwhelmingly women who are being harmed by mostly men. Of the men that are being harmed, it is mostly by other men. We want to remove those blinkers.”

In addition to raising awareness about violence against women, the organisation aims to remember the individuals who have been lost.

“We also want to hold vigil for those who have had their lives taken from them,” Annalise told me. “We will not let them be forgotten.”

Annalise said that the organisations focuses on the numbers because “it’s a useful lobbying tool.”

“A count is a very simple and powerful message. There’s no complicated words around it. There’s no possible way to debate it. They are facts, and they are damning.”

It’s a hard job, Annalise explained, especially for a grassroots organisation operating with constrained resources. The organisation is run by volunteers, who only have access to information that is publicly available.

She said that the job feels especially difficult when she thinks about the lack of political will in Canberra.

“We see this resistance in government, with cuts to government funding to supportive services at both state and federal level, and unsupportive and restrictive legislation.”

Nonetheless, Annalise believes there is cause for optimism.

She told me that the most rewarding aspect of her “heartbreaking” work is the “slow but certain recognition that we, as a nation, do have a problem with IPV.”

“When we first started, we were one of the newest, fastest-growing and loudest shouting femmo fb page[s] in Australia,” she explained. “I think that sudden realisation that there’s a lot of feminists online, and we are pissed, caused a lot of people to knee jerk…to put us back in our place. Silence us.”

But Destroy the Joint is far from silent. Having accumulated over 90,000 Facebook ‘likes’ in under four years, the count continues to be a powerful reminder of the devastation of intimate partner violence.

While this article was being written, the count was updated. The Facebook cover photo now bears the number “13”.