The problem with domestic and family violence in Australia is widespread. It heavily impacts the lives of women, children, and men alike. Unfortunately, not all people are keen on reporting an assault once they encounter one.

What is domestic and family violence? 

Domestic and family violence occurs when one party in the relationship hurts the other. The act creates tension and harm in any relationship—not just for intimate partners.

The Department of Social Services (DSS) outlined a list of behaviours that are domestic abuse:

·         Physical abuse

·         Sexual abuse

·         Emotional or psychological abuse

·         Verbal abuse

·         Social abuse

·         Economic abuse

·         Spiritual abuse

This major problem involves a pattern of abusive behaviour aimed at making you feel afraid, uncomfortable, or unsafe in your relationship.  Abuse doesn’t have to involve physical violence; it also includes emotional abuse that is repeated over time.

What the numbers say

Domestic violence occurs in all geographic areas of Australia and among all socioeconomic and cultural groups. Based on the data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), there are 2.2 million Australians who experienced physical and sexual assault from their current or previous partner.The figures show that 2 million people have faced at least one instance of sexual violence since the age of 15. Compared to men, women are more likely to have multiple hospital stays related to family and domestic violence (FDV).

Reasons that prevent women from reporting cases of FDV

The data published by AIHW shows that from 2005 to 2016, the police-recorded crimes related to FDV were only in the range of 15-18%.

The top 5 reasons why women have not reported the most recent sexual assaults (in the last 10 years) they encountered to the police are as follows:

  1. They felt that they could deal with the incident on their own.
  2. They did not consider the incident as a serious offence that needs to be reported to the authorities.
  3. The assault caused them to feel shame and/or embarrassment.
  4. They thought that there was nothing that the police could do about the crime

They never knew or thought that the incident was already counted as a crime.

Misconceptions surrounding abuse

Many people have misconceptions about what an abusive relationship is and how it looks. To spread awareness and provide some insights into the reality of domestic violence, below are a few of the many myths that surround abuse at home.

1. Domestic violence never goes beyond closed doors.

Ignoring or condoning this problem keeps the cycle of abuse going by teaching abusers that their controlling behaviour is acceptable. Moreover, there are serious consequences for children. Children are the ones who often bear witness to their mothers’ abuse—or suffer physical abuse themselves. Aside from its devastating effects on children, violence at home negatively affects society as a whole.

2. Victims of domestic violence can easily leave.

Most victims of domestic violence feel trapped in their situation and don’t believe they have options. Battered victims stay with their abusers because they fear that the abuser will harm them or their children if they leave. They might not have anywhere to go or enough money to survive on their own, so they put up with all the mess that happens behind closed doors. Leaving is easier said than done.

3. Domestic violence is just an issue of anger and impulse control.

Violence is a deliberate choice that abusers make. It is unfortunate that it is difficult for people to understand that abuse at home is a deliberate choice rather than an impulse or loss of control. Because abusers are very selective about who and why they abuse, it’s important to help people understand that victims need support and protection.

4. Domestic violence is not a grave offence.

Domestic violence is a serious crime in Australia. Some people may assume that only physical abuse constitutes domestic violence. However, it’s important to remember that other kinds of abuse also contribute to unhealthy relationships. Abuse can cause both physical and emotional damage to victims. Each act should be taken seriously and treated as such.

5. Domestic violence only happens in a small part of the globe.

Domestic abuse is a horrible crime that can happen to anyone. Just because you have not seen, heard, or experienced domestic violence does not mean that it does not happen. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or what your background is; any form of abuse can affect anyone. Regardless of race, sexual orientation, age, or education level, anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse.

How you can help

When someone you know has experienced or is experiencing family and domestic violence, it’s common to feel unsure about the best things to say and do. But you should never feel too scared to say something.One of the most important things you can start doing is to believe them and take their fears seriously. Moreover, you should not in any way pressure them into taking actions they’re not prepared for or aren’t ready for just yet. Be sure to respect their rights as a person, including their right to privacy and their right to decide what actions are best for them to take moving forward.

Warning signs you need to know

Services Australia, which delivers social services with the help of different government programs, outlined some domestic violence signs to know if you think a friend or family member is being abused:

  •  They seem to be afraid of someone close to them (e.g. partner)
  • They stop seeing their friends and/or family
  • They get harassed through text messages and/or phone calls
  • They lost confidence and became anxious and depressed
  • They have bruises, cuts, or sprains on their body
  • They have limited to no control over things like activities, wardrobe, and using technology

People who face family and domestic violence may not easily realise that they are already experiencing assaults that would count as a form of abuse. The same case rings true, especially for people who may have any disability.

Support services you can use

1800RESPECT

If you know anyone who may be an FDV victim but has limited access to information and resources for help, you may advise them to access the Disability Support Toolkit provided by 1800RESPECT, a national service centre that provides information, support, and counselling services related to domestic, family, and sexual violence.

1800RESPECT counsellors went through a comprehensive training program that equipped them with the right knowledge and skills to help not only people who experienced or are at risk of experiencing abuse but also professionals and other people who give support to anyone facing violence.1800RESPECT’s hotline is 1800 737 732, accessible at any time of the day, and their website also features an online chat.

Who to call

For a complete list of support services that you can call, you may refer to the crisis line numbers listed on the official website of DSS.

Lifeline

Lifeline is another national service that provides a short-term support network in the form of calls, chats, and texts.

It aims to provide support for those who live in Australia who:

  • feel overwhelmed
  • experience emotional distress
  • having difficulties in coping or staying safe

There is nothing better than spending time with someone who understands you, someone who has your back, and someone who cares enough to listen without interrupting or judging. Lifeline counsellors listen without judgement throughout the conversation. They see to it that they create a safe space for anyone who would want to discuss their needs, worries, and concerns.

How we help in countering violence

Domestic violence is an issue that affects many communities. Dealing with it is a shared responsibility. We built our team at Elvove with the goal of helping and understanding the struggles of domestic violence survivors. We lend a helping hand to women and get them out of their career-limiting situations.

We are dedicated to our mission of supporting women who are striving to leave abusive relationships and those who have already left them by offering them a job in an environment that acts as a haven to heal and grow.

At Elvove, we employ women who have escaped violent relationships. We prioritise them and treat them with the respect they deserve; because they deserve nothing less than to be put first.

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