Content Warning: This post contains discussion of domestic violence and abuse.
If you are seeking help and advice as a victim of domestic violence and abuse, please scroll to the bottom for a list of hotlines and resources that may be helpful to you.
Today is International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to honouring women’s advancement while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.
There are many women I’d like to celebrate on a day like today (my mother/my feminist idols/every female friend I’ve ever had), but I’ve been sitting on another women’s subject for about a month now. If I were truthful, it’s a topic I’ve been sitting on for years. And today seems like an appropriate day to talk about it.
In early 2015, as I was going about my own business, the newspapers ran a story about a young woman in Brunswick, Melbourne who was murdered by her husband. This woman, a university student in the same classes as me, with the same friends as me, had been stabbed to death in her own apartment.
It didn’t take long for the Facebook posts to begin flooding in.
Domestic violence is a difficult subject at the best of times, but it’s even more difficult when it touches your life, or that of those around you. I didn’t know Nikita. Not in a friendship sense. We’d exchanged small talk in class once or twice and I admired her amicable personality and vibrant creativity. When I found out she died I was deeply saddened. When I found out she was murdered I was horrified.
Over a third of women will experience physical or sexual assault in their lifetime. Even more will be affected by emotional abuse. Domestic violence is likely to touch the lives of many women that you know. It is the largest cause of ill-health and premature death to women under the age of 45 in Australia. Age or class does not hinder it. It rears its ugly head everywhere. It is a fact of life.
The thing is, when people think about domestic violence and abuse, physical and sexual assault are what they see in their minds eye. Battery and rape, black eyes and bruises. Murder. It is rarer for people to speak of the less visible forms of abuse. Those that go on behind closed doors. Those that leave emotional scars. The kind of abuse that is hugely important to recognise and acknowledge, but that often flies under the radar.
Emotional abuse is by far the most common form of domestic abuse. In fact, while psychological abuse does not always lead to physical abuse, physical abuse in domestic relationships is nearly always preceded and accompanied by psychological abuse. It is the most reliable predictor of a partner’s likelihood of first exhibiting physical aggression.
Long-term abuse of this nature has debilitating effects on a person’s sense of self and integrity, often leading to psychological trauma including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, research has shown that the impact of emotional abuse does not significantly differ from that of physical abuse.
The problem is that many who have experienced psychological abuse do not label it as such. Society has normalised, even romanticised, emotionally abusive behaviour to such a level that victims find it difficult to identify. You only need to look as far as the continued and horrifyingly widespread success of the 50 Shades franchise to see an example of this.
The truth is that abuse comes in many forms and may include:
- physical or sexual abuse
- verbal abuse
- emotional abuse
- financial abuse such as withholding money
- threats or coercion
- isolating you from family and friends
- controlling or dominating you, causing you to fear for your safety or the wellbeing of another person
- causing your child to hear, witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of violence
- constant criticism
- harm to things that you love – pets, personal belongings
- neglect in a relationship of dependence
- restricting spiritual or cultural participation
It is no secret that domestic violence disproportionately affects women. It’s also no secret that victims of abuse often find it difficult to speak out or seek help.
On today, International Women’s Day (and every day going forward), I encourage you to talk openly and honestly about domestic violence and abuse. It is more important than ever to speak up about this violence, to start a conversation and raise awareness and provide support.
Societal silence on abuse does nothing but protect perpetrators and enable abusive behaviour to continue and even escalate. It is well past time we took collective responsibility for abuse by acknowledging it’s widespread existence and using our voices to speak out against it.
Be a part of creating a society that encourages people to question abusive behaviour, to recognise abuse at it’s inception and to take action or reach out when help is needed. Speak up, show your support and listen.
It’s time to stop looking the other way.
Help and Support Lines:
www.safesteps.org.au // 1800 015 188
Safe Steps is the 24/7 Family Violence Response Centre that offers a comprehensive range of intervention, support and advocacy services for women and children experiencing violence and abuse from a partner or ex-partner, another family member or someone close to them.
https://www.1800respect.org.au // 1800 737 732
A national family violence and sexual assault telephone counselling service which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
http://www.kidshelp.com.au // 1300 766 491
Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25.
http://www.casa.org.au // 1800 806 292
Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) work to ensure that women, children and men who are victim/survivors of sexual assault have access to comprehensive and timely support and intervention to address their needs. A free confidential 24 hour emergency or crisis care service is available for victim/survivors who have recently been sexually assaulted. This includes crisis counselling support and may include access to medical care and legal processes.
http://www.dvrcv.org.au/intouch-multicultural-centre-against-family-violence // 1800 755 988
InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence (formerly Immigrant Women’s Domestic Violence Service) works with women & children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) who are victims/survivors of domestic violence. The service has a pool of bi-lingual and bi-cultural workers who provide assistance and information for women and children escaping domestic violence.
https://www.lifeline.org.au // 13 11 14
Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
http://www.wire.org.au/ // 1300 134 130
Women’s Information Referral Exchange (WIRE) provides Victorian women with free and confidential support, information and referrals on any issues statewide wide.
http://mrs.org.au // 1300 766 491
The Men’s Referral Service (MRS) provides anonymous and confidential telephone counselling, information and referrals to men to help them to stop using violent and controlling behavior.
Other useful links:
Women’s Legal Services Australia is a national network of community legal centres that specialise in women’s legal issues. They provide advice, information, casework and education to women on family law and family violence matters as well as provide advice on more general legal issues.
Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) is a not for profit organisation providing free and confidential legal information, advice, referrals and representation to women in Victoria. They specialise in issues arising from relationship breakdown and violence against women.
Legal Aid Victoria provide free legal information and education to all Victorians, with a focus on prevention and early resolution of legal problems. They can help people with legal problems involving family breakdown, child protection, family violence, criminal matters, social security, mental health, discrimination, guardianship and administration, fines, immigration, tenancy and debt.
ANROWS is Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety to reduce violence against women and their children. It aims to deliver relevant and translatable research evidence which drives policy and practice leading to a reduction in the levels of violence against women and their children.
The Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) is a statewide service in Melbourne which provides training, publications, research and other resources to those experiencing family violence, together with practitioners and service organisations who also work with family violence survivors.
Our Watch has been established to drive nation-wide change in the culture, behaviours and attitudes that lead to violence against women and children.
No To Violence (NTV), the Male Family Violence Prevention Association, is the Victorian state-wide peak body of organisations and individuals working with men to end their violence and abuse against family members.
Women with Disabilities Victoria – Women with disabilities are amongst the most marginalised and disadvantaged people in the world. The intersection of gender inequality and disability presents a situation of multiple levels of discrimination. WDV focus on those areas which have the biggest impact on women’s lives – currently, violence against women with disabilities and access to health care. They also have a secondary focus on parenting rights and employment equality.
Another Closet is a website is written for people in same-sex or LGBTIQ relationships who are or may be experiencing domestic violence. It contains information on what domestic violence is, what to do if you are experiencing abuse, tips for making a crisis plan and the details for some referral services in NSW.
Gay Lesbian Health Victoria is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) health and wellbeing policy and resource unit. GLHV is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of LGBTI Victorians and the quality of care they receive.
What Men Can Do publishes information about how men can respond to and prevent men’s violence against women. No To Violence has compiled this resource as men’s violence against women is one of the leading causes of poor physical and emotional health for both women and children. It is substantially more frequent than women’s violence against men, affecting over one in three women and their children.
This website is a place where Victorian women and family violence workers experiencing violence are able to find information, resources and services aimed at preventing and responding to family violence. It is also for families, friends and neighbours of women experiencing violence, as well as other professionals who support them in the course of their work.