What Can Be Done About Domestic Violence

At least 60 women have been killed in Australia this year by a current or former partner.

By the time you read this article, another death will have happened.

Why is this not a national emergency?

I have some staggering stats for you from the Women’s Council:

  • 1 in 3 women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15
  • 1 in 4 women have experienced emotional or psychological abuse
  • 1 in 5 women have experienced sexualised violence
  • Intimate partner violence is the greatest health risk of women aged 25-44
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence-related assault than non-Indigenous women, and 10 times more likely to die from an assault
  • More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of mothers who had children in their care when they experienced violence from their previous partner said the children had seen or heard the violence.

Domestic violence isn’t just physical violence.

It’s manipulation, isolation, degrading comments, controlling behaviour and financial abuse. It doesn’t have to be physical to be domestic abuse.

In Western Australia alone this year, 28 people have been killed as a result of domestic and family violence, compared to 12 people last year.

The often fatal consequences cannot be ignored and the Women’s Council believes much more can be done to prevent this scourge within our society.

Women’s Council CEO Angela Hartwig said much more can be done by all levels of the community – State and Federal governments, businesses, and first responders.

One way is by ensuring that all Women’s Refuges and DFV specialist services are funded to be able to provide a suite of services such as crisis and medium term accommodation, outreach, safe at home and counselling.

Domestic and Family Violence against women is the single largest driver of homelessness for women, a common factor in child protection notification and incidents result in a police call-out on average every two minutes across the country.

While men are more likely to experience violence by other men in public places, women are more likely to experience violence from men they know, often in the home.

The overwhelming majority of acts of domestic violence and sexual assault are perpetrated by men against women, and this violence is likely to be more severe on female than male victims.

Australia must ramp up its efforts to prevent tragedies such as the alleged murder of a Bedford family, according to Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer.

I decided to ask my followers on Instagram if anyone was happy to share their stories and I was inundated with messages.

I have almost 40,000 people follow me and I was messaged by more than 100 women coming forward to share their incredibly heartbreaking but powerful stories of domestic violence.

Sheree was with her partner for almost 16 years, since she was just 16 years old.

She experienced mental, physical and emotional abuse from the beginning. She was hospitalised many times and felt like she was going to die a few times over the 16 years.

She even contemplated suicide and leaving her kids because it was all too much. Finally she chose to leave and is now happily married to someone else.

She experiences PTSD still to this day but is making it her mission to share her story and help others.

“I am wanting to educate the next generation about abuse,” she said.

“How to recognise abuse and how to stop it. I want them to know what a real loving relationship is and what it should look like. I want them to understand their worth. Know what they deserve.”

“I am wanting to make this topic not such a taboo subject anymore because we all know it’s happening. One woman dies a week at the hands of her current or former partner.”

Skye wanted to share from her experience with her abusive ex-partner: “My ex-husband was amazing…. until the day we got married.”

She added that, for women or men experiencing domestic violence, it isn’t just being used as a punching bag.

“Domestic violence is being cut off from your finances,” she said.

“Being told you don’t need to work because you are a parent but having to beg for money to buy nappies because you aren’t working, it’s having to almost apply to be able to purchase yourself new clothes so you just don’t bother, you make everything stretch and hide money where you can to save so don’t need to ask.

“It’s being made to tell him where you’re going, what you’re doing and who with, even when he is at work because he has your phone tracked, and if you don’t answer the phone by the second ring you know there will be a tirade if abuse.

“It’s not only the yelling and screaming, but the sly put downs that impact your self esteem and your make you question your worth.

“The gas lighting, doing things that you dispute and being made to feel like that’s all in you’re head and it didn’t happen, that you’re the psycho and losing it….. please believe me you’re not, it’s a lovely part of the game.”

Sarah married at the age of 18 and her husband was kind, caring and loving in public.

But behind closed doors, he put her down, manipulated, controlled and eventually physically abused her daily.

For a long time she was too afraid to speak out because she felt like she was the crazy person. Eventually friends and family stopped wanting to hang out with them because they did not like her partner.

“I now wish someone was able to speak up and try and get through to me, which is why I will never stay silent if I have concerns for any of my friends in their relationships,” she said.

“If anyone ever has any fears of a friend, family member or co-worker who may be in a bad situation, say something. Don’t be scared of ‘meddling’ in someone’s life as they may be drowning and unable to reach out because of the crazy hold that domestic violence has over them.”

Lauren’s abuse went on for six years and the perpetrator was her husband.

“It was the last assault that had her pack her bags and get out because she thought she was going to die.

“I thought he was going to kill me” she said.

“He was choking me with one hand while he was carrying my son on his hip. The pain was unbearable and I could feel it getting harder and harder to breath and talk.

“It was in that moment that I thought – shit this is it, he’s going to kill me and my son is going to be watching. I stopped begging him to let me go and looked at my son and kept mouthing ‘it’s ok, mummy is ok,’. If I died I wanted my son to know that I was ok.”

Today Lauren is still battling the mental affects this relationship has had on her life.

She has been diagnosed with extreme complex-PTSD, severe anxiety and depression and she sees a physiologist regularly to help with the nightmares, triggers and daily anxiety.

I asked her what piece of advice she had for someone going through this and she said: “Leave. No matter how hard it seems just get out.

“They won’t change. It’s never your fault, don’t feel ashamed for what they have done to you. Find someone you trust and tell them, let them help you get out. There are so many domestic violence organisations out there that can help, use them.”

On Friday, 23 November the Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services (WA) invites all community members to attend the 28th Annual Silent Domestic Violence Memorial march.

The event continues to be held each year to remember and honour all those who have lost their lives to domestic homicide.

It starts with a morning tea at 10.30am, followed by a rally with guest speakers at 11am and the march through the CBD begins at 12pm

xo Heidi

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