How can I help someone who is suffering domestic violence?

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The impact of domestic violence is something getting a lot of “air time” at the moment, but still there seems to be a concerning tendency to think that it perhaps is not as prevalent as it is. And so many are of the view that it isn’t happening near them or in their circles.

Prevalence of domestic violence

The recent candlelit vigil in Brisbane was held to remember the 17 women, 2 men and 4 children who have been murdered in domestic violence incidents in Queensland in the past 12 months. Although some media outlets say that we only have about 1 dv murder per month in Queensland, that is simply not accurate. At 23 that we know about in the past 12 months, it’s nearly 2 a month (and that is just the ones that are publicly reported!). DV affects people from all walks of life, all socio-economic backgrounds, all cultures.

A 2008 study conducted by the Centre for Family and Domestic Violence Research found that 13.1% of women interviewed had been subject to physical violence by their current partner during the course of the relationship.  33% of the women had experienced non-physical abuse during the course of their current relationship, and 25.2 % had experienced psychological abuse during the course of their current relationship.

In an older study, approximately one third of Australian women surveyed had reported experiencing some form of physical or sexual violence in their lives.

We know that under reporting of domestic violence is common, as is not seeking help.  One study suggested that victims of domestic violence who knew about the availability of specialised domestic violence support did not take steps to access that support in 60 % of cases – which may indicate that some 60% of cases did not come close to being reported!

Why is it an issue?

There is significant research suggesting that the exposure of children to domestic violence, particularly between loved ones, is highly psychologically damaging.  For the most part, domestic violence is considered, and treated in family law and child protection as child abuse.  There is also some research that suggests that experiencing domestic violence as a child changes the way the child’s brain develops.

Research completed by the Centre for Family and Domestic Violence Research concluded that if an adult woman was subjected to physical abuse at ANY stage of their current relationship, they were 7 times more likely to demonstrate symptoms of a severe psychological issue.  If that abuse was in the past 12 months, it jumped to 21 times more likely.  If the woman was subjected to sexual abuse at any stage of the current relationship, they were 17 times more likely to demonstrate symptoms of severe psychological issues.

Records compiled by the Australian Institute of Criminology suggest that during 2007-2008, 52% of homicides in Australia involved victims who shared a family or domestic relationship with the offender.  31% were homicides involving partners. Those figures have not improved with time.

For victims of domestic violence, the implications reverberate through their lives – it affects their mental, spiritual and physical health.  On a secondary level it affects the ability of a victim to care for a home and family, and to perform to their normal standard at work, and in a social setting.

What you can do:

For starters, if you are unsafe call 000.

Check out our resources page here.

If you are supporting a victim of domestic violence, check out the advice here.

If you need legal information, try our summary here or Legal Aid Queensland.