This year our TV screens and social media feeds have been full of the news of many serious tragedies of violence during or at the end of intimate relationships. We have all heard of many women and children whose lives have been lost as a result of senseless violence. And while this is happening there are so many more families who are living the consequences of these crimes on a daily basis. They are in need of domestic violence support but it is often impossible for them to ask.
Over the past two years we’ve seen Rosie Batty travel our country, advocating for change and bringing the tragedy that is domestic violence to the forefront of the Australian community’s minds. Never before has there been such a public dialogue around such a significant issue and I feel we are finally on a wave to change. When we look back to the beginning of this year alone, almost two woman each week have lost their lives as a result of violence caused by their supposed loved ones.
We of course call these acts ‘domestic violence’ more than we call them acts of ‘murder’ which I think is a big part of the challenge we face as society. Until we class violence between partners or former partners purely as ‘violence’ we will continue to be able to push these acts into a category of their own where they can continue to occur behind closed doors and often out of sight from most of us.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence is Violence. It includes acts of assault, battery, intimidation, power abuse, control, manipulation and as we are currently seeing too regularly- murder. By grouping these serious crimes under the title of ‘domestic violence’ I fear we are too able to separate ourselves from the truth – that these acts by one human being against another are illegal, unjust and not to be tolerated.
Domestic Violence can include:
- Acts of physical harm- assault, damage to property or pets
- Emotional and psychological abuse- behaviours that are designed to destroy your confidence and sense of self including regular put downs or humiliation
- Verbal abuse
- Financial abuse- including the removal of or limitation of access to finances to remove independence
- Controlling behaviours, social abuse and stalking- including excessive tracking of your whereabouts, excessive calls or texts or ‘online’ tracking
- Sexual abuse
I am a family lawyer who regularly encounters domestic violence during my day to day work. Since I began my career I have been exposed to some of the most heinous acts of violence during relationships. Acts of physical harm are often the easiest to identify but emotional, psychological and other forms of controlling and undermining behaviours are just as damaging on those who experience them.
So what help is available for domestic violence support?
If you, or someone you know is suffering any form of domestic violence there is help available.
Around Queensland there are a many free services that can provide immediate assistance and supports such as counselling, legal advice and accommodation.
Services that are available include:
- DV Connect- http://www.dvconnect.org/ DV Connect offers extensive assistance to women, men and children. They have a 24 hour hotline that you can call on 1800 811 811 for immediate access to trained advisors in this area.
- Life Line- lifeline.org.au Lifeline also offers extensive supports and have a 24 hour hotline on 131114.
- 1800Respect– https://www.1800respect.org.au/ 1800Respect offers a 24 national counselling hotline 1800 737 732
- Women’s Legal Service Qld- https://www.wlsq.org.au/ WLSQ offers free legal assistance to women suffering from domestic violence here in Brisbane and around Queensland. They also have a free hotline open daily between 9-3 on 1800 957 957
- Legal Aid Qld– legalaid.qld.gov.au Legal Aid Qld also provides free legal assistance to men and women around the State and can be contacted on 1300 651 188
There are many other services available to families for immediate domestic violence support. But sometimes we are the best resource. Lifeline report that 1 in 4 women have experienced domestic violence in a relationship. If you pause and think about that, there is a good chance that you, or someone you know is right now trying to manage these issues in their day to day life and looking for domestic violence support.
So how can you help?
If you suspect that someone you know is suffering from domestic violence there are things you can do to help. Sometimes we fear ‘interfering’ but this is one of those moments in life where it is important to reach out as chances us the person you are trying to help is unable to call out for help.
At the very least you can listen, without judgment. Just being available to a friend of family member to hear their worries and concerns can be the beginning of them getting the assistance they might need. You will need to be sensitive, supportive and available.
Domestic violence support that YOU can offer:
- Talking to them about your concerns, tell them you are worried about them and why and let them know you are able to support them.
- Putting them in touch with professional supports such as those listen above
- Demonstrating kindness so they know they can call on you if needed in the future
- Keep in regular contact
- If they leave a relationship, be ready to offer support thereafter, offering practical supports such are care of children so they can get in touch with DV services
And always remember we don’t know what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes. It can be so hard for someone in these circumstances to seek help so when they do it is so important that we are not judgmental but that we do what we can at that time for them.
Clarissa Rayward is a Collaborative Family Lawyer & Family Mediator at Brisbane Family Law Centre
www.brisbanefamilylawcentre.com.au 07 3862 1955
To find out more about the friendly team at Brisbane Family Law Centre watch their video.
This article was published in Issue 17 of our print magazine, August/September 2016.