Domestic and family violence is the primary cause of disease burden across society in Australia. In a study conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, an estimated 1 in 6 women (1.6 million) over the age of 18 had experienced violence at the hands of a partner since 15 years of age.1 

As part of the International Day of Non-Violence, we share some information about this serious issue that doesn’t discriminate against socio-economic status, culture, race, or sexuality. Children are often the unseen victims, with impacts starting in utero and continuing throughout their life.

What is domestic violence?

It is most often a gendered crime that occurs in a pattern of actions and behaviours to control and manipulate an intimate partner or family member. Domestic and family violence can include: 

  • Physical violence
  • Sexual violence
  • Verbal abuse
  • Technological Abuse
  • Stalking and Harassment
  • Financial control and exclusion
  • Reproductive coercion 
  • Socially isolating the victim away from family, community and key supports; sometimes with the use of systems such as false child protection reports, or false reports to police
  • Emotional and psychological abuse, including gaslighting and blaming the victim for the violence

What Contributes to Domestic & Family Violence?

Societal factors, like economic policy, cultural beliefs which define the roles of how men and women should be, and barriers to accessing support services can contribute to domestic and family violence. 

There are also individual and family circumstances, which may escalate the risk for domestic violence occurring, which include:

  • Financial stress & unemployment
  • Intergenerational trauma and experiences of violence
  • The presence of alcohol and other drugs in a household
  • The presence of mental health issues in a household
  • Pregnancy
  • The 6-12 months after a woman and her children have left the relationship 
It is important to understand that whilst these factors may contribute to the risk of domestic violence, choice, power and control remain the cause. 

What can someone who is experiencing Domestic & Family Violence do?

It is important for any person who is experiencing domestic violence to know they are not to blame for the violence they are experiencing. Reaching out and strengthening support networks can be a key first step in breaking the silence and exploring their experience, whether this is with a friend or a safe person, or a professional service. Domestic violence crisis lines such as 1800 RESPECT or the DV Hotline (1800 65 64 63) are useful starting points for victims to access professional support, if they are not aware of what local services may be available to them. 

Being linked in with a professional service can help individuals experiencing domestic violence to increase their safety and take action from an informed, supported and empowered place. This is particularly important if they are planning to leave a violent relationship, as this is the time where there may be increased risk of further harm from their partner or former partner.  There are a number of actions that victims can do in planning to leave, including saving money, collecting their key documents, packing an escape bag with immediate supplies, and assessing the safety of the technology they are currently using. 

What can you do to better support Domestic & Family Violence victims or friends that we know in our community?

If you know someone who is experiencing domestic violence, it is important to respect their decisions, even if you do not understand them. It is helpful to be mindful that some people who experience domestic violence carry guilt and shame, and that it is useful to acknowledge the strength it takes to come forward and seek support. 
It would be worthwhile consulting a professional service, as bringing awareness may increase the risk of harm to the victim in the relationship. 

What can the average Australian do to support the cause, change the thinking, and become advocates for change?

It is important for Australians and communities to place the responsibility for domestic violence onto the perpetrator who chooses to use violence and intimidation, and not the victim. Often public discussion centres on “why doesn’t she leave”, rather than “why doesn’t he stop”. Challenge your own belief systems and attitudes so you can be open to hear, believe and support women and children experiencing domestic violence. 
 
Often public discussion centres on “why doesn’t she leave”, rather than “why doesn’t he stop”
Continuing to raise awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence, and what to do when we notice domestic violence can help to change the culture which has kept domestic violence hidden behind closed doors for decades.  Men speaking up about other men’s behaviour and avoiding ‘boys club’ culture can be highly effective in changing attitudes towards women and excusing perpetrators behaviour.

Challenging gender stereotypes and early education about healthy relationships and boundaries can be helpful in creating future generations who are more informed about their personal relationships, and feel empowered to speak up when they see violence occurring. 

Australians and communities can also be advocates for change in supporting reforms which better protect women and children; including acknowledgment in the Family Law Courts that a parent who perpetrates domestic violence is also perpetrating abuse towards their children. Amplifying the voice of children who have experienced domestic violence could be a key to changing the thinking and attitudes around domestic violence as an adult’s issue. 

Most importantly believe women and children. Perpetrators of violence do not wear a sign or have a “type”. Perpetrators come in all walks of life. 

The Centre for Women’s Children’s and Family Health

The Centre for Women’s Children’s and Family Health (CFWCFH) was established by The Benevolent Society in 1995 with the aim to educate, empower and support children, women and families.

With a focus on safety and wellbeing, our Centre provides a range of integrated support services such as crisis intervention, intake and risk assessment, safety planning, counselling and psychotherapy, case management, therapeutic childcare, groups, prevention and community education services. The CFWCFH has a primary focus on those affected by domestic violence and other trauma. 

The CfWCFH supports women wherever they are at in their experience of domestic and family violence, to assist them and their children to increase safety and make empowered decisions for their wellbeing. 

To learn more about the CfWCFH, click here.

1. This data comes from the Partner violence in Australia: new analysis (2020), Australian Bureau of Statistics which you can access here.