Talking with women, men and children about suspected family violence can be difficult, however the way individuals and organisations respond to family violence is vital. These important conversations can help people move to a safer place.
3 December 2015
The issue of family violence in our community is gaining increasing attention, following the announcements of Rosie Batty as 2015 Australian of the Year and the Victorian Government’s Royal Commission into Family Violence.
This attention and the conversations that have followed are essential, with startling statistics demonstrating the prevalence of family violence in our community. One in three women aged 15 years or older has experienced physical violence (VicHealth, 2014), while one woman is killed in Australia almost every week by a partner or ex-partner, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology (2008-2010). One in four women and one in seven men have reported experiencing emotional abuse by a current or former partner (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013).
Historically, definitions of family or domestic violence may have been more likely to focus on physical aspects of violence. The Commonwealth Family Law Act 1975 however, defines family violence more broadly as violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family (the family member) or causes the family member to be fearful.
Examples of behaviour that may constitute family violence include (but are not limited to) an assault, a sexual assault, preventing a family member from making or keeping connections, repeated derogatory statements, unreasonably withholding financial support or depriving a family member of her or his liberty.
We know that it is often very difficult for those experiencing family violence to disclose the issue. They may hold realistic fears about their own or their family’s safety if they seek help or disclose the abuse, particularly when threats are involved. Victims of family violence may feel shame or embarrassment, have low self-esteem or a strong emotional attachment to the perpetrator.
Responding to presentations of family violence can be challenging if you don’t come across the issue often or you don’t work for a family violence service. You might find yourself asking a range of questions about family violence.
What are the indicators? What do you say? How do you create a safe place so the person will feel okay about telling you what’s really going on? What happens next if the person says they are a victim of family violence?
Talking with women, men and children about suspected family violence can be difficult, however the way in which individuals and organisations respond to family violence is vital. These important conversations can help people experiencing family violence move to a safer place.
Some ways to respond include to: