Domestic violence is extremely prevalent in Australia, however many people are blind to it. Your friend, aunt, sister, or even brother, could be suffering at the hands of domestic violence, without you even being aware. The person committing the act is usually very good at ensuring it only ever occurs behind closed doors. On the other hand, the victim feels so much shame and places the blame on themselves, causing them to cover up the actions of their partner and hide the truth.
So, what exactly can you do if you suspect someone you love is the victim of domestic violence? Here are the signs to look out for, and ways you can help them out.
What Is Domestic Violence In Australia?
In the past decade, domestic violence has become recognised as a major health problem in Australia. The truth is, it affects everyone. There is no one factor that determines who is more likely to suffer at the hands of it. No matter your economic, educational, social, geographic or racial background, domestic violence affects everyone.
So, what exactly is domestic violence? In Australia, it is generally taken to mean partner abuse between a male and female partner. It is most commonly perpetrated by the male partner. The Australian Medical Association recently produced a position statement asserting that, "Domestic violence is an abuse of power. It is the domination, coercion, intimidation and victimisation of one person by another by physical, sexual or emotional means within intimate relationships."
What many people fail to understand is that domestic violence can come in a variety of different forms:
- Physical abuse: this is the most commonly recognised form of domestic violence. It can include anything from causing pain and injury to denying medical care and sexual assault.
- Verbal abuse: this is the use of words to humiliate, degrade, intimidate and more, and often includes the threat of violence.
- Economic abuse: this includes withholding access to finances, which can prevent the victim from being able to participate in a social life, leaving them secluded.
- Social abuse: this type of abuse involves controlling the victim’s social life and creating an dependence on them.
How Common Is Domestic Violence In Australia?
The prevalence of domestic violence is surprisingly high. Here are some facts and figures to put it all into perspective:
- 16% of women and 5.9% of men have experienced physical violence from a partner.
- About 37% of people who were seeking homeless services in 2018-19 were experiencing domestic violence.
- On average, one woman each week is killed by a current or former partner.
Despite these numbers, measuring domestic violence in Australia is actually very difficult to do. The fact is, many victims never come forward, so their domestic violence goes unreported. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of Australian women killed by their current or former partner has remained consistent in recent years.
What Are The Signs To Look Out For?
The fear and/or shame that comes with domestic violence can lead to many victims choosing to keep it a secret. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t signs you can look out for and be aware of. Depending what type of violence the victim is suffering at the hands of, the warning signs will be very different.
Here are some to get you started:
- Physical bruises and other marks on their body: the victim will usually choose to explain these away as accidents. If this is a common occurrence, then it may be worth looking further into their relationship and addressing your concerns. The may choose to hide these marks under clothing. If they are wearing long shirts in Summer and other odd clothing choices, it may be for a reason.
- Other forms of domestic violence can take an emotional toll on the victim. They may be more withdrawn, anxious, have low self-esteem, show signs of depression, seem fearful, or even talk about suicide.
- Their behaviour can also change when suffering at the hands of domestic violence. They may become reserved and distant, isolate themselves from friends and family members, drop out of activities they previous enjoyed, late to work and other appointments.
- Domestic violence is also often about control. This is where financial and emotional abuse factor into it. There are plenty of warning signs in a relationship, including the need to ask permission before going anywhere, constant calls and texts to check in on them, no access to money, no access to a vehicle, and more.
If you notice any of these signs, it is worth starting a conversation, but don’t be surprised if the person denies it. There are other ways you can reach out.
How To Help
If you think someone close to you is suffering at the hands of domestic violence, or perhaps you notice signs yourself, then it is worth starting the conversation. Often, it is best to direct them to a place of support and help. Here are some of the numbers you can provide:
- Respect national hotline: 1800 737 732
- Women's Crisis Line: 1800 811 811
- Men's Referral Service: 1300 766 491
- Lifeline (24-hour crisis line): 131 114
- Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277