Domestic & family violence
Make your mission an Australia free from violence
For many of us it may be inconceivable that Domestic and Family violence (DFV), is anywhere near us. But the reality is it is likely to be in every suburb in Australia.
It doesn’t discriminate, it can affect women, men and children of all ages of any cultural heritage and it has a terrible and lasting impact on individuals and communities.
Is it really a big problem in Australia? Yes, it is.
It is currently a leading cause of homelessness in Australia. In fact:
- One woman every week is killed by a current or former partner.1
- One man every month is killed by a current or former partner.2
- More than 1 million Australian children are affected by DFV.3
Around 42% of people seeking help from specialist homelessness services in 2017-18 were experiencing family and domestic violence.4
- 121,116 people who asked for help from specialist homelessness services in 2017-18 were experiencing family and domestic violence. Of these, 78% were female.5
Domestic and family violence was the main reason why 85,000 people asked for help from specialist homelessness services in 2017-18.6
- More than 116,000 people are homeless in Australia on any given night.7
What can we do to take a stand against DFV?
Know the signs
Recognise domestic violence when you see it. Domestic violence may involve lots of different types of behaviours including:
Physical abuse - including direct assaults on the body, use of weapons, driving dangerously, destruction of property, abuse of pets in front of family members, assault of children and forced sleep deprivation.
Emotional abuse - blaming the victim for all problems in the relationship, constantly comparing the victim with others to undermine self-esteem and self-worth, withdrawing all interest and engagement (eg weeks of silence).
Sexual abuse - any form of sexual activity without consent, causing pain during sex, assaulting the genitals, coercive sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease, criticising, or using sexually degrading insults.
Social abuse - systematic isolation from family and friends through techniques such as ongoing rudeness to family and friends, moving to locations where the victim knows nobody, and forbidding or physically preventing the victim from going out and meeting people.
Verbal abuse - continual ‘put downs’ and humiliation, either privately or publicly, with attacks following clear themes that focus on intelligence, sexuality, body image and capacity as a family member, parent or spouse.
Spiritual abuse - denying access to ceremonies, land or family, preventing religious observance, forcing victims to do things against their beliefs, denigration of cultural background, or using religious teachings or cultural tradition as a reason for violence.
Economic abuse - complete control of all monies, no access to bank accounts, providing only an inadequate ‘allowance’.
Know how to respond
It can be hard to know what to say to a person experiencing domestic violence but there are a few really effective things you can do;
Listen – Being listened to can be an empowering experience for a person who has been affected. Give them space to tell their story and be empathetic and compassionate.
Validate and believe them – Often people are not confident to tell their story in case they are not believed. You can help a person feel stronger by showing you believe what they say, no matter what they share.
Be clear that they are not to blame - People who are experiencing Domestic and family violence can often feel incredibly scared and unsure of themselves. You can say things like ‘Violence is unacceptable; you do not deserve to be treated this way.’ Avoid asking, ‘Why don’t you leave?’
‘What could you have done to avoid this situation?’ ‘Why did they hit you?’ as this might suggest they could control the violence by managing their behaviour.
Above all, help them seek help – You don’t need to try to fix the situation or be a counsellor. Refer them to services who can support them. If their life is in danger, they should call 000. For other concerns, the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line is available on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
What's happening in your state
All state governments are finding ways to create awareness and support services for people who need them today and every day of the year. The Council of Australian Governments has a National Plan to reduce violence against women and their children.Find out more about what's happening in your state:
- New South Wales
- Western Australia
- South Australia
- Australian Capital Territory
- Northern Territory
For more information, download our research into families and children.
1 Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) 2017. The 2017 National Homicide Monitoring Program report by the AIC showed that over a 2-year period from 2011/12 to 2013/14, there were 99 female victims of intimate partner homicide. Women continue to be over-represented as victims of intimate partner homicide, accounting for 79% of all intimate partner homicides.
2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2018) Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018
3 UNSW (2011) The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children: A Literature Review
4/5/6 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) report – release date Friday 14 December 2018
7 ‘2016 Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness, 2016’, published 14 March 2018.
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