I know someone suffering Domestic Violence, what do I do?

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Given the reported prevalence of domestic violence in our society (DVConnect’s summary of domestic violence statistics is available here), it is not uncommon for a friend, family member or even your neighbor to be suffering from domestic violence, in its various forms (we discuss some of the different types of domestic violence recognized at law in this article).

Sometimes our friend, family member or neighbor reaches out to us. Other times, you have reasonable suspicion that domestic violence is occurring, as you notice the bruises, or overhear the loud verbal abuse.

These are difficult situations to be confronted with, but domestic and family violence in all its forms is unacceptable.

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.

Some of our recommendations to help you take a stand against domestic and family Violence, or to assist you in helping someone who is experiencing domestic and family violence are as follows:

What you can do to help!

  1. Complain to the Police

If you become aware that a person is in immediate or urgent danger because of domestic violence (for example, you overhear loud threats of physical harm made against your neighbor by their partner), you should immediately call the police on 000.

If you do not think there is immediate or urgent danger, you may make a complaint to Policelink or call 131 444.

The police may be able to assist the aggrieved with commencing an Application for a Protection Order following dealing with the immediate issues.

  1. Contact Crisis Support

DVConnect have a number of crisis-support hotlines that are able to assist victims of domestic violence (including men, women and victims of sexual abuse). Below are some examples of the assistance that DVConnect is able to provide. :

  • Crisis counseling and preparing a safety plan for the victim, children and pets;
  • Referring to other service providers that may be able to assist, for example, emergency accommodation; and
  • Court support (but not legal advice).

Encouraging a victim of domestic violence to contact a crisis-support line like DVConnect may give them some preliminary counseling and guidance from support workers who are very familiar incidents of domestic violence. Their hotlines are as follows:

  • Womensline – 1800 811 811;
  • Mensline – 1800 600 636; and
  • Sexual Assault Helpline – 1800 010 120.
  1. Get a Protection Order

Obtaining a Protection Order may be an option to obtain legal protection from the other party. These are civil orders that are issued by a Magistrates Court, and breach of a Protection Order can result in a criminal offence.

An Application for a Protection Order can be commenced by you personally, or upon application by the police. Our article on the legal aspects of obtaining a Protection Order is available here.

  1. Report Child Abuse

If you have a reasonable suspicion that a child is experiencing, or at risk of, experiencing harm, you may contact the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. The contact may be made by way of telephone at:

  • During business hours, contacting the regional intake services described here; and
  • After business hours or on weekends, contacting 1800 177 135.

You may also may a report by way of an online report form here.

If you make a notification, usually your identity will be kept confidential it most situations.

If there is an immediate or urgent risk of child abuse, you should contact the Police on 000.

 Some other resources are available

  • Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria have published a guide for families, friends and neighbours

http://www.dvrcv.org.au/help-advice/guide-for-families-friends-and-neighbours.

  • DVConnect Womensline have published a guide called “Help for Others”

http://www.dvconnect.org/womensline/help-for-others-concerned-for-someone-else-2/

Need an appointment to help someone suffering domestic violence?

Call our Client Engagement Officers and make an appointment to speak with one of our Family Law Team members. Contact us on (07) 3252 0011.

Lets all be part of the solution. Violence is never ok. Not Now Not Ever