Do you know domestic violence when you see it?
How to know if you’re in or witnessing an abusive relationship.
Let me paint you a picture – I warn you, it’s not a pretty one…
You have an acquaintance at the kids’ school. A mother of one of your child’s friends. You chat with her sometimes while waiting to pick up the kids. She seems reserved. Only occasionally talking about herself – it’s mostly you who does the talking.
The few times she contributed to the conversation she said a few things which seemed a little odd to you.
Something’s not right
One time you were talking about pet names you and your partner have for each other. She laughed self-consciously while recalling the names her partner called her, “stupid bitch”, “fat cow”, and quickly offered how she deserved it though for not being smarter or keeping herself in shape.
Another time you were talking about managing household finances and the increasing cost of living. She noted he doesn’t let her manage the finances because she’s “a bumbling idiot”. He gives her $150 each week for groceries. She remarks how tough it is to stretch that far enough to feed the whole family some weeks. She can’t remember the last time she had money to buy herself anything.
She exhales an envious whimper when you tell her about meeting your friends for lunch and a movie over the weekend. “You’re so lucky, he would never let me do that” she states. You invite her to join you and ‘the girls’ for a ladies’ night one weekend, but she looks at you fearfully and utters “I couldn’t – he’d kill me”. She quickly laughs it off but something about how she says it makes you think for a second – she’s not joking.
The next time you see her she’s wearing dark sunglasses, a scarf, and lots of makeup – you think to yourself, gee she’s covered up today – but hey, people dress differently so you shrug it off and don’t think more of it. As you’re standing there waiting for the kids you notice she doesn’t look at you at all while you’re talking.
Now you’re standing close enough to see the shadow of a bruise under the rim of her glasses. She raises her hand to adjust her scarf and glasses. You notice cuts to her hand and red marks peeping from under the edge of her scarf. She’s more reserved than usual today. Conversation is stilted. You ask if she’s ok and she smiles awkwardly and says “of course”. The kids come rushing out and she quickly bundles hers to the car mumbling a hastened goodbye.
You’re left with a heavy, wrenching feeling in the pit of your stomach. But the kids start up and you get distracted…
Sadly, this story is all too common in Australia
The woman in this story is experiencing domestic violence. Her partner controls her finances, isolates her from friends and family, humiliates and degrades her until he’s drained her of all self-worth. He regularly threatens to harm or take the children if she ever fights back or tries to leave. To prove his point, he often hits her – sometimes even rapes her.
Domestic violence (DV) is any behaviour (psychological, physical, sexual) that seeks to intimidate, control, or harm a person within an intimate or family relationship. Sadly, this is a huge issue across Australia, with DV a significant contributor to illness, disability, and death for women. It is also the single largest influencer of women’s homelessness, and a common reason behind many child protection notifications. DV causes devastating harm to children, impacting attitudes, behaviour, intellectual and emotional functioning, social development, and affecting their education and long-term opportunities. It places a massive strain on the health and wellbeing of women, children, families, communities, and our broader society[i].
Ok, it’s happening – but what can I do about it?
Listen to your instincts – trust your gut! That feeling you get in your stomach when something’s not right. A heavy, queasy, wrenching feeling. We often question ourselves, rationalise the feeling away, and overthink things until we’ve supressed it completely. Please – DON’T! This is nature’s inbuilt protection system. Pay attention to your instincts – listen hard – because sometimes they’re very quiet and our thoughts can get awfully loud.
There are lots of great resources available these days to help sufferers of DV – whether it’s you or someone you know. Be informed, be brave, reach out! You don’t have to face it alone.
- Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria – http://www.dvrcv.org.au/
- Domestic Violence New South Wales – http://www.domesticviolence.nsw.gov.au/
- DV Connect Crisis Support Queensland – http://www.dvconnect.org/
- White Ribbon Australia – https://www.whiteribbon.org.au/
- Our Watch – https://www.ourwatch.org.au/
- Reach Out – http://au.reachout.com/what-is-domestic-violence
- Fact file: Domestic violence in Australia – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-06/fact-file-domestic-violence-statistics/7147938
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