Intimate partner violence is a chronic, ongoing issue for many Australian women. One in four women in Australia has experienced intimate partner violence. Domestic violence is abhorrent and yet it continues to be a scar on our sunburnt country. The Australian Government is campaigning to “Stop it from the Start”, but what happens to those who it has already happened to? How can we best support them?
There are a growing number of services for domestic violence victims both in Australia and overseas. It is an issue that has been gaining momentum and raising long overdue awareness worldwide. And it is not just specific service that is aimed at supporting intimate partner violence victims and survivors, but laws are being changed and rules are being modified to help this vulnerable group of people.
How Business & Government Are Helping Victims of Intimate Partner Violence
Just recently some changes were made to the Residential Tenancies Act so that domestic violence victims are not penalised for having homes damaged from a violent relationship. Homelessness need not be a consequence of leaving a violent relationship – especially when these kinds of changes are being made. Instead of victims being blacklisted by real estate agents, from July 1, they will be able to apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal to be given a clear personal tenancy history if they have been victims of intimate partner violence.
Banks are also adopting policies to help domestic violence victims. NAB has recently extended its partnership with Care Ring in order to offer a range of services for victims, and has domestic violence leave for staff. The head of the Australian Banking Association and NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn, said financial abuse can accompany or compound violence and “we are in a position to help combat the issue. . . We have a responsibility to our people and our customers who are at risk, to understand the very difficult circumstances they may be in and to give them support to maintain their financial independence,” he said.
The NSW Government has seen how liberating and empowering education can be for domestic violence victims, but how it can often be financially insurmountable for some to continue or pursue higher education. They have made this easier by offering fee-free vocational training scholarships for survivors of intimate partner violence.
And it is not just Governments, various institutions and community bodies that are helping these women, it is domestic violence survivors themselves. Broken to Brilliant is a handbook on escaping violence. It has been penned as a guide for others, with personal experience to back their work. It contains everything from planned budgets, with details of how much paint brushes cost to stamp duty, as well as self-health help and a long list of emergency contact numbers.
While all of these things are excellent in arming us with knowledge to share, how can you and I, who may not have personal experience of intimate partner violence, help domestic violence surviviors?
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How You Can Help Victims of Intimate Partner Violence
Be supportive. This doesn’t have to mean being present with them 24/7. Domestic violence survivors don’t need baby-sitting, but they do need people to ‘look-out’ for them, like a caring sibling would look-out for a sister or brother. Since domestic violence victims make up to 36% of the total demand of homelessness services, this is a possible reality for many of them, unless people step in to help. Help your friend to hang onto the essentials like their job, education and finances. Catching some little things before they become really big issues is going to go an awfully long way.
Never say, “I told you so” or “I never liked him”. It’s not helpful and it’s like you’re rubbing salt into their wound. They’re very conscious of what they’ve had to endure and with whom. Being a prophet after the fact is selfish when they really need your help in focusing on the future, not the past.
Encourage them in their mental and physical health. In fact, these two can often go hand-in-hand for some people. Those who have had to endure the mental and sometimes physical horror of intimate partner violence are going to need some help in learning to self-love and sometimes basic self-care. It’s really important to consider the help of professionals for this type of care. You might be able to help them most by offering to help them find a therapist and even taking them along to their first appointment, but make sure that you’re giving them space to own the decision to do so – don’t bully them into anything that they don’t want to do.
Sometimes it’s expensive to join a gym or take boxing or yoga classes, so if this is not an option, why not walk or run with them a couple of times a week. Physical exercise is a great stress reliever, promotes the release of endorphins and they can enjoy being in control of their own body – something many of us have taken for granted.
Don’t get caught in the middle. If the abuser returns, call the police. Their power games may extend to trying to hurt you if you get in the way. Don’t hesitate – protect your friend and yourself.
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Be their friend. You don’t have to turn into a superhero fighting against domestic violence – you just need to be their friend. Let them know that you care and don’t have all of the answers, but will help them in their search to move on.
If you would like to speak to one of our family law professionals then please contact us today. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation.