How does domestic and family violence affect children?
Understanding the trauma that domestic and family violence can cause is an important step in supporting children who are affected.
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When children live with domestic and family violence, they are experiencing trauma. It can be trauma that is ongoing and long-lasting. Domestic and family violence can have impacts on health, development and wellbeing. The effects build up over time, and can impact on every aspect of their life.
Domestic and family violence can affect children in many ways
Children are affected if they:
- Witness the violence against their mother or carer, or see their fear
- Hear it in another room, or have to hide or run from abuse
- Have to tippy-toe around an abuser to try to prevent outbursts
- Have to comfort, clean up or take additional responsibilities for siblings/carers following violence
- Are victimised for supporting their mother or carer
- Are encouraged to join in with verbal abuse or contempt for their mother or carer
- Cannot be cared for properly as the abuse is either directly preventing it, or is causing poor mental health and exhaustion for the carer
- Experience disrupted attachment with their mother or primary carer as infants, or the normal co-regulation of emotions between a mother and infant is disrupted
- Are abused themselves. People who abuse their partners or ex-partners often abuse their children as well
- Have an acquired brain injury from physical abuse
- Are forced to have ongoing contact with someone of whom they are scared or whose presence is a ‘trauma trigger’, following previous incidents where the children have been traumatised
The impacts of domestic and family violence are complex
When children experience domestic and family violence, it can affect their:
- Behaviours – they can act out, over-react, be hostile, impulsive, aggressive or defiant. They can also withdraw or dissociate or run away. All these behaviours can be normal to children who have been traumatised by family or domestic violence, and do not mean the children have ‘disorders’. Drug and alcohol use can be a problem with older children.
- Development – normal development can be impaired. They can look like they are regressing or acting younger than their age. This can be a subconscious way of trying to get to a state where they are safe and secure. It can also be a result of the harm to the brain’s development caused by exposure to trauma.
- Relationships – they may avoid closeness and push people away. Children may also attach to peers or adults who may be unsafe for them, to try to develop an alternative secure base, if home feels insecure.
- Emotions – children often feel fearful, stressed, depressed, angry, anxious or ashamed. Emotional security is the foundation of healthy relationships later in life. This security can be damaged if attachment between the mother/carer and baby is disrupted by domestic violence.
- Learning – they may not be able to concentrate at school because they are constantly on the lookout for danger. This can be subconscious. Detentions, missed school and frequent changes of schools can also affect learning.
- Cognitions – children may have low self-esteem, and think negatively about themselves or people around them. (For example, they may think, ‘everyone hates me’.)
- Physical health – a range of illnesses may be related to domestic and family violence. Headaches, stomach aches, stress reactions (for example rashes or immune system related illnesses) and sleep disturbances (for example nightmares, insomnia or bedwetting) are common.
Helping children recover
How quickly and completely children recover from the effects of domestic and family violence depends on whether:
- They can be kept safe from violence and from reminders of previous trauma – known as ‘trauma triggers’
- They are supported and comforted within a ‘protective cocoon’ of care after they experience trauma
- The schools and childcare centres they attend provide an understanding and supportive environment to help with healing and recovery
- They can have security, safety and care in their everyday lives
- They have access to specialised trauma-informed therapies or help, if they need them
- They can rebuild a safe and secure attachment with their mother or a protective carer, if they have been exposed to violence in their early years
- Other disadvantages impact on the child’s life, such as poverty, isolation or school bullying
Recovery can also depend on individual personalities and strengths.
this article has been published from https://www.1800respect.org.au
I have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to 12 years of Physical & emotional trauma.
I attended Family Court in Melbourne yesterday only to sit in the courtroom and wait for my case to be heard at about 3.00pm.
While waiting I hear other cases. One woman, with no legal representation, up against the Department of Human Services lawyer, and Barrister, an Independent Childrens Lawyer and Barrister. She had no one with her and no support.
Her children had been taken into care because her ex boyfriend was taking ice. The mother has moved, no longer associated with the ex, and is trying to get her children home.
She has never had a drug or alcohol problem, but in order to get one sleepover a week with her kids, she has to do random drug and alcohol screening, and a psychiatrist report. She has never been diagnosed with a mental illness.
The there was the case of a muslim women who has not seen her children for seven years. Her ex husband took them to Lebanon seven years ago, and stayed there for two years, and his parents in Lebanon now have custody.
This womans only choice was to allow the ex husband to have his passport back, and him taken off the Federal Airport watch list so that he could return to Lebanon to collect children and apparently bring them back.
The mother was giving him the money for the childrens tickets. She was not allowed to go with him, at his request. The kids don’t have Australian passports……I dont think he’s coming back with those kids…
So after three more other domestic violence related cases, I was in tears. My PTSD had kicked in, and I was a bumbling mess.
I had only been before this Judge once, and she called me a Frequent Flyer in the family Court System! I informed her that I had been only once before her, she informed me that “Judges Talk”. She made jokes about my domestic violence, and inferred I am a liar.
I was there to report an urgent assault on my son (the forth in 2 years) by the father. The judge told me she would not entertain the thought. Even though under Section 67ZD of the Family Law Act 1975 this can be addressed once the court is made aware. I provided a letter from Human Services, she told me she didnt care. That if it was so important Human Services would attend court.
I left the court immediately.
We need a specialised court in Victoria that understands Domestic Violnce, and Court Support so that Domestic Violence suffers are not reabused by the system.
On Tuesday the 7th of July 2015 at 10.00 am in courtroom 4b In Melbourne the showdown will begin.
A perpetrator of 12 years of domestic violence who recently assaulted his child again (for third time) is taking Domestic violence surivivor to court for Contempt for not providing her address to the Refuge she stays at and for not providing her mobile phone number. She does not have a mobile phone number as the cyber bullying from the perpetrator made her have it disconnected.
She either gives up the address of other domestic violence survivors staying in the refuge or she is locked up for Contempt of Court.
It will be the battle of the bullies. The Judge in this instance has already bullied and belittled her so another time will just be added to a futher notch in her belt.
The perpetrator is repeat contravention breacher of Family Court Orders, Domestic violence Intervention Orders and still no justice. 72 breaches of Intervention orders including
attempted threats to kill (3) including in front of children (2)
Economic abuse (6)
Fraud regarding economic abuse (5)
Damaging Property owned by Domestic Violence survivor (5)
Providing documentation to third parties without consent (12)
At family Court
Contempt of Court (3) Contraventions of family court orders (14)
He has never been charged or investigated for any of these incidents. Family Court refuses to even allow the Contempt of Court and Contraventions to be entertained.
this survivor has 12 years of documentrory evidence of assualts, police invovlement, and abuse both emotionally, psychologically, physically.
The Honorable Chief Justice Diana Bryant I believe is attempting to support victims of Family Violence through the Family Court system. The Family Violence Best Practice Principles approved and supported by the Family Court of Australia is to be commended. You can view this at the link below
However the Chief Justice Diana Bryant has a long way to go before these principles are actually adhered to by all members of the Family Court, including Judges and staff.
I have been researching family violence in the Family Court system for approximately four years. I have been privy to some situations whereby as a bystander I have held concerns for the unethical behaviour of Judges and staff of the Family Court system.
I have attended over 700 sitting days in different Family Court rooms listening to, watching, and talking with people associated with proceedings regarding family law and more importantly family violence. This includes lawyers, barristers, court staff, security staff, victims, court support network staff, and other members of the public at family court proceedings.
Firstly my recommendations to the Family Violence Royal Commission regarding the Family Court System are as follows
1. No victim should be subjected to any type of ridicule or abuse by anyone. Family Court proceedings for any person involved is already stressful enough, then add the mixture of Family Violence and there is another fear and stress amongst parties.
This recommendation regards the following:
a. Protestors in the front area of the family court entrance. I know we are a country that has free speech, but to be subjected to certain groups yelling with a megaphone about their rights to a victim about to enter Family Court is incomprehensible.
I am going to give you an example. Please do not email me with abuse that I have used a mens group as an example here. I have met and spoken with male victims of Family Violence and they will also be featured in my blog. Violence does not have a gender and can occur across many types of blended families.
I was with a woman who was attending Family Court regarding Family Violence. At the front of the court entrance area a group of men protesting about men being victims of Family Violence started directing their speech toward the woman I was with. She had bruising to her face that was fading, and one comment that was made was “I bet he looks worse”. The woman in question became upset and that seemed to encourage an onslaught of further demeaning comments.
Fortunately I was able to get Family Court Security Staff to assist. No one has the right to behave like this. No one should be able to protest in this area ever.
b. Another time when the case of Mr Hird and the Essendon Football club recent incidents, the entrance walkway to the Family Court was full of reporters and cameras. I was that day with a woman who had just been granted an emergency relocation order due to her ex partner breaching the Family Violence Orders on 36 occasions, (including breaking into the former family home and beating the mother and children.) The Family Court had granted her permission to move to an unknown place. She had attended the Melbourne Family Court because of security fears at another Family Court Facility.
Upon coming to and from the Family Court of Melbourne she was filmed by camera crews awaiting Mr Hird and his entourage. So much for her personal security.
2. Security measures at Family Court should be effective enough to reduce the threat or fear of being subjected to any type of intolerable behaviour by any person(s) towards any other person(s).
At the entrance to the front of the Family Court of Melbourne is inadequate with security, and deemed in my opinion quite dangerous.
a. Anyone who has had the privilege of standing in line to get through only one security check point at the Family Court in Melbourne may have been privy to some of the issues I have seen and heard. Firstly it can take up to 40 minutes some mornings. I have been present when victims and perpetrators have been within a confined distance. I have heard degrading comments made, intimidating hand gestures ( once a perpetrator kept slicing his throat with his hand and mouthing YOU’RE FUCKING DEAD) in front of me. I have heard barking (unaware who it was directed at), aggressive mannerisms, and basically stand offish filthy intimidating looks.
The entrance should be larger, contain cameras and more security. Perhaps even the model taken by the Melbourne Magistrates Court whereby solicitors, Barristers and Qcs or anyone attending the court regularly in this type of capacity have a different que in order to speed things up. I don’t know what the answer is. All I know is it is another area where a victim can be re victimized unnecessarily, or see others be victimized in front of them.
b.Upon leaving the Family Court, well that’s another matter and a whole other bag of security issues. I have seen people who have not gained the required results so to speak in the court room become upset and agitated and started being abusive towards others (including their legal representation). There should be a separate exit area. Imagine attending Family Court for the first time and hearing verbal abuse and viewing aggression from a person who is clearly upset regarding their predicament. Regardless of whether this is a once off behavioural issue, “out of character” so to speak, I have seen this time and time again. It is very concerning.
c. Security inside the Courtrooms is insufficient. I have been privy to many instances whereby I have been concerned for my own safety sitting in the gallery watching court room proceedings. There are no cameras. I have seen victims be intimidated by looks, hand gestures and remarks made by perpetrators turning their backs to where the actual microphones in the court rooms are. I have seen an entourage of family and friends in the gallery intimidating victims. I have also seen unfortunately members of the Legal profession behave in similar ways. Knowing exactly where the microphones are and turning their bodies to make snide comments to victims. I have actually been privy to a legal representative slide across the bar table written assistance to a perpetrator, and a law-book marked and open. If there were cameras in the court rooms there would be more accountability.
d. Security when no one is present in the courtroom. Cameras need to be installed. The recording of matters only occurs when the residing person is present. Therefore once they leave the court room the recording ceases. I have been privy to perpetrators taking this opportunity to intimidate victims. I have been informed by Family Court Clerk staff of their concerns for safety when they need to leave the courtroom after the Judge and having self represented litigants left by themselves. In one instance I was in the gallery when two self representing litigants involving family violence became embroiled in what can only be described as a Mexican standoff so to speak. For ten minutes I became concerned for my welfare as well as the victims.
3. When someone requests Security to be present in a courtroom it should be provided. The fear of being within a confined space with a perpetrator can trigger emotional and psychological fears. It also can be a way to intimidate the victim.
a. This would have to be one of the most highly discussed issues of concern with Victims of Family Violence. I have been privy to Justice MacMillan removing security from the courtroom because “she did not see the need for it as the defendant didn’t look like a threat to her” and she openly ridiculed the victim in the courtroom for suggesting that security was warranted. Prior to this hearing in front of Justice MacMillan the same victim had been intimidated, verbally berated, and another Judge had made sure that security was always present on numerous occasions.
b. Another case I was observing involving Justice Thornton whereby a Victim requested not to attend court physically and requested video link facilities was declined. The request was made by the victim due to recent breaches in their family Violence orders that were being investigated by Victoria Police. Justice Thornton made a comment in open court that “nothing will happen because others will be present”. Yet that did not assist the trauma the Victim had to face being within a confined space of a perpetrator who was under investigation for stalking and intimidation.
c. I was also privy to another incident regarding Justice Thornton that totally shocked me. An issue was raised in a case regarding Economic Abuse and Justice Thornton remarked “is that Family Violence?” I have kept in contact with the victim of these proceedings and have received transcripts of further proceedings regarding this case and Justice Thornton. Another comment made by Justice Thornton which shocked me was when the victim was being cross-examined on the fourth day, she was crying and asked the Independent children’s Barrister why she was doing this to her? Justice Thornton replied “well that’s what your barrister did (referring to the half day of cross-examination the perpetrator had)”. Fifteen minutes later, after continual sobbing, the victim, still in the witness-box asked for a 10 minute break to compose herself. Justice Thornton denied the victim not once, but four times these requested breaks. So a victim of 12 years of extensive family violence was in the witness-box for four days, being cross-examined by the perpetrator as well as the Independent Childrens Lawyer Barrister. Evidence was heard and admitted to by the perpetrator and by the expert psychiatrist admitting to family violence. (including the father assaulting the child).
What happened at the end of the trial? The victim lost parental responsibility and her children to the perpetrator. Just for an update. The child in question was assaulted again by the father, and he still has not been investigated regarding this issue. The mother is in the process of attempting to appeal the family court orders, but was recently informed by Justice Thornton that “she had no hope” and the application to suspend the current family court orders until the appeal was heard was denied.
d. I have viewed Justice Benjamin, who upon a request from a victim to have security present he rolled his eyes and said no. When the victim attempted to explain that they feared the perpetrator, he held his hand up in a stop like position and stated “no and that’s the end of that matter”.
e. Magistrate Turner from the Federal Circuit Court, I was privy to observing his approach to Family Violence. The victims solicitor requested security to be present (due to a previous incident at the Federal Circuit Court outside the courtroom regarding intimidation towards the solicitor and victim by a family member of the perpetrators) Magistrate Turner informed the solicitor that “she was a big girl” and “could handle a bit of criticism, as it went with the job” . Afterwards the victim informed me that the solicitor had been intimidated. She was approached and told that they knew where she lived, and the train times she caught to work was discussed. I asked the victim why the solicitor did not push the matter further, and I was informed because her role entailed being at the Family Court regularly, and she did not want to upset Magistrate Turner because she would be in front of him again. This solicitor who I have kept in touch with moved firms and relocated to a regional area to practice only recently.
f. Magistrate O’Dwyer from the Federal Circuit Court wins the wooden spoon for having no empathy whatsoever for Family Violence Victims. I have been present (when after an apparent back operation, and appeared to be in extreme pain and medicated) Magistrate O’Dwyer decided that one victim of family violence was, in his words was “stretching the truth”. In this instance the victim and the perpetrator were both self represented. The victim was requesting that she did not attend round table dispute services due to ongoing family violence. Magistrate O’Dwyer stated that the perpetrator in this instance “looked harmless” , “he was only small in stature” and that he “didn’t appear to be the type who would hurt anyone”. I kept in touch with the victim in this instance, and her family violence worker. Approximately three weeks after this court appearance the perpetrator was charged with assaulting the victim in a supermarket car park with an iron bar. Looks can be deceiving Magistrate O’Dwyer.
g. Magistrate O’Sullivan from the Dandenong Federal Circuit Court has been dubbed as the loose cannon of Magistrates. His demonstration of his understanding on Family Violence matters has been known to “change like the wind” as one legal counsel described him as. I have been privy to a number of sittings of Magistrate O’Sullivan in Dandenong, yet I was not present when he was involved in Family Violence cases so I cannot substantiate any previous information obtained from victims of family violence.
4. An expert witness has a duty to act independently and needs to be transparent and professionally accountable for their actions.
a. Family Consultants, like any expert witness (ie psychologist, psychiatrist etc) should be accountable for their report processes and this function should be outsourced from the actual Family Court Building in Melbourne.
Firstly independence is the key. Most Family Consultants are psychologists with professional liability insurance and are accountable like any other professional body. My biggest grievance is with the fact that the Family Court of Melbourne has enabled Family Consultants to be housed inside the court arena. This means that all sorts of families attending family court to see a family consultant is subjecting children and parents to seeing behaviors of others mentioned previously.
Secondly, a senior female Family Consultant, with only a Social Work background has been involved in proceedings time and time again that I believe is not benificial to anyone who has been a victim of Family Violence. One victim, who provided me with copies of her reports demonstrates her bias nature that should be addressed immediately. Another victim provided me with recordings of their interviews with this said consultant, and after reading the reports I was overwhelmed with the discrepancies and unprofessionalism of the Senior Family Consultant. Had she been in private practice a lawsuit would have incurred.
Thirdly, the relationship with this senior Family Consultant and other court staff is unhealthy and bias in nature. She sends other court staff into family court appearances literally as spies. How do I know this? I have been privy to watching some of these staff contacting the said consultant directly after hearings on their mobile phones. As I have spent four years in the court arena I have been privy to watching the same court staff attend matters that she is involved in. Coincidence? I think not. I have also been privy to Michelle Smith, who works on the same floor as the said consultant report back to the Senior Family Consultant in front of another victim. (who relayed the information to me). Another need for cameras in the courtroom.
Fourthly, then there is the relationship with this said Senior Female Family Consultant and a Senior Female Registrar that I have been privy to obtaining from Victims of Family violence evidence of their incestuous relationship. It is deplorable in this day and age that two such senior staff of the Family Court of Australia can wield such unauthorised power. They appear to be judge, jury and executioner. The amount of evidence that I have gathered regarding these two staff have become a focus of fear for the victims of family violence. They have no accountability and seem to be able to influence proceedings. This senior registrar informed a family violence victim not to press charges against her former partner regarding assault, and berated her by yelling and bullying her in front of her ex partner. The victim in this instance recorded the conversation, and upon hearing the conversation I was appalled by the behaviour in question. Another victim received written emails from the same senior registrar that I believe were abusive, insensitive and demeaning.
5. All Court Staff employees should have accountability for their behavior towards others.
In my time of being at the Family Court I have met a lot of genuinely helpful people who are employed at the Court in different types of roles. Yes I have heard the odd disgruntled complaint about one or two staff members, but overall the real complaints I have genuinely heard about have been regarding the senior family consultant and the senior registrar that can basically “make or break” a family violence case. This is a failure of the family court system and should be addressed immediately.
a. A proper complaints process needs to be enforced in a timely manner. I have seen copies of complaints made regarding these two by family violence victims, and eventually they get a rely usually 90 to 120 days after the complaint is made. The reply letters I have seen are basically the same, and possibly come in the standard letter format.
Chief Justice Diana Bryant of the Family Court of Australia has implemented some positive principles and guidelines surrounding family violence, and should be commended for her contribution into addressing this significant issue.
I just hope and pray that the recommendations I suggest to the Family Violence Royal Commssion assists in some further improvement in the implementation of these principles and guidelines.
Overview and definitions
This paper summarises a recent Parliamentary Library publication on domestic violence. It provides an overview of the prevalence, risk factors and cost of domestic violence in Australia.
This paper uses the term domestic violence to refer to ‘acts of violence that occur between people who have, or have had, an intimate relationship’ which is the definition used in the Australian Government’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022. It may include physical, sexual, financial, emotional or psychological abuse. The ‘central element of domestic violence is an ongoing pattern of behaviour aimed at controlling a partner through fear’. Family violence is a broader term which may involve a variety of kinship and marital arrangements. It is often used in the context of, though not restricted to, violence experienced in Indigenous communities.
In 2013 the World Health Organization found that violence against women is a violation of human rights that affects more than one third of all women, and ‘a global public health problem of epidemic proportions’.
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) notes that, in Australia, domestic violence is the most prevalent form of violence experienced by women, and a woman is more likely to be assaulted in her home by a male partner than anywhere or anyone else.
Information on the prevalence of domestic violence in Australia is derived from surveys including the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Personal Safety Survey (PSS) 2012 and 2005, the Australian elements of the 2004 International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS), and the 1996 Women’s Safety Australia.
Although a stronger evidence base is required as the full extent of domestic violence remains unknown, it is known that themajority of those who experience domestic violence are women, and such violence affects members of all cultures, ages and socio-economic groups. ANROWS has summarised the results of the 2012 PSS, highlighting that, since the age of 15:
- 1 in 6 Australian women had experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner
- 1 in 19 Australian men had experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner
- 1 in 4 Australian women had experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner
- 1 in 7 Australian men had experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.
There are a range of challenges involved in collecting and analysing data on domestic violence. The 2012 PSS defined violence as at least one incident involving the occurrence, attempt or threat of either physical or sexual assault, so these figures fail to reflect different patterns and experiences of violence, including duration, scale and severity. Women are over-represented in intimate partner homicides, and much more likely to experience sexual assault than men. Of all Australian women, 15 per cent had been sexually assaulted by a person they knew. One in 22 Australian men had experienced sexual violence, by a person known or unknown to them.
Perpetration of violence is also gendered, and ANROWS states that it is more likely for a person to experience violence from a male rather than a female perpetrator. More than three times as many people over the age of 15 were found to have experienced violence from a male than a female.
Risk factors and at-risk groups
Key research findings demonstrate that:
- Gender inequality is a key determinant of violence against women.
- Alcohol and drug use can lead to higher levels of aggression by perpetrators. A study found that between 2000 and 2006 44 per cent of all intimate partner homicides, and 87 per cent of Indigenous intimate partner homicides, were alcohol related.
- Past experience of violent victimisation can predict future victimisation. IVAWS found that women who experienced abuse during childhood are one and a half times more likely to experience violence in adulthood than those who did not. People who experienced childhood sexual abuse were found to be three times more likely to experience partner violence than those who had not.
- Pregnancy may intensify the risk of domestic violence. A quarter of women who experienced partner violence since the age of 15 reported experiencing domestic violence for the first time from a previous partner while pregnant.
- Separated women are more likely to experience violence than married women, and it is most common for women to experience violence from a male ex-partner. It may be that violence follows separation, or the decision to separate is due to violence.International studies indicate that leaving a violent partner may increase the risk of more severe, or even fatal, violence.
- Young women are more likely to have recently experienced violence than older women. Researchers suggest that inexperience, age differences in relationships, and lack of access to services exacerbate younger women’s vulnerability to violence. Young men are more likely to hold pro-violence attitudes, and research indicates that pro-violence attitudes decrease with age.
- Indigenous women and their children are more likely to experience violence than any other section of society. When compared to non-Indigenous women, Indigenous women are five times more likely to be homicide victims. Rates of domestic assaultreported to police are also more than six times higher for Indigenous women.
- Rural and remote areas have a higher reported incidence of domestic violence than metropolitan settings. Those who have experienced domestic violence may lack access to services, transport and telecommunications, and suffer a lack of anonymity.
- Women with disabilities are vulnerable to violence due to social and cultural disadvantage, and a greater dependence on other people for care, including, in some situations, the perpetrator of violence. Women and girls with disabilities may be twice as likely to experience violence as those without disabilities. Adults with intellectual or psychiatric disabilities are particularly at risk of sexual assault.
- Women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds may lack access to culturally appropriate services, leading to lower rates of reporting. Drawing conclusions regarding domestic violence in selected CALD communities is difficult as research has produced mixed findings. Cultural values can increase the complexities normally involved in domestic violence, andimmigration may cause social and cultural dislocation, intensifying domestic violence.
- Financial stress may cause, or be exacerbated by, domestic violence. While domestic violence cuts across social and economic boundaries, further research is needed to adequately analyse the relationship between domestic violence, education, employment status and income. While IVAWS found that experiences of current intimate partner violence during the previous 12 months varied little according to education, status or household income, ABS data suggests that women whose main income is from government support are at increased risk of violence from a previous partner.
- Same-sex intimate relationships may also involve domestic violence, and approximately 2 per cent of intimate partner homicides in Australia involved partners from same-sex relationships since 1989–90. Males were also overrepresented as perpetrators in same-sex intimate partner homicides.
Attitudes, reporting and policing
Most women do not report experiences of violence to police, and are less likely to report when the perpetrator is their current partner. Of women who contacted police about their most recently violent previous partner, half had a restraining order issued, but 58 per cent of those experienced further violence.
The Australian police and criminal justice systems are commonly criticised for not treating domestic violence seriously enough. Concerns have been commonly expressed about a lack of survivor support, failures to fully investigate incidents, and a lack of consistent policing (both within and across jurisdictions). The Australasian Policing Strategy for Preventing and Reducing Family Violence was launched in 2008 to coordinate police policies, practices and information-sharing. There has also been a shift towards broader collaboration with partner agencies to provide referrals and support.
Social and economic costs
- Homicide: 61 per cent of Australian homicides between July 2008 and July 2010 occurred in a residential location, and domestic homicides accounted for just over half of these incidents.
- Health: domestic violence can have severe and enduring effects on physical and mental health. Using burden of disease methodology, domestic violence was found to be the leading risk factor contributing to death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15 to 44 years.
- Children and adolescents living with domestic and family violence are at increased risk of experiencing emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Their social, behavioural, cognitive and emotional development may also be affected, as well as education and employment outcomes. Of people aged 12 to 20 years, 23 per cent had witnessed violence against their mother or step-mother, while 42 per cent of Indigenous young people had witnessed violence against their mother or step-mother.
- Economic: in 2009 it was estimated that violence against women and their children, including both domestic and non-domestic violence, cost the Australian economy $13.6 billion. Domestic violence also creates complex economic issues for women and their children, and many experience financial risk or poverty as a result. Domestic violence affects women’s financial security in key areas of life: debts, bills and banking, accommodation, legal issues, health, transport, migration, employment, social security and child support. Women nominated finding safe, affordable and appropriate accommodation post-separation as their biggest concern in a study of economic wellbeing and domestic violence.
- Homelessness: domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness, accounting for 32 per cent of all clients receiving assistance from specialist homelessness services in 2011–12. Women affected by domestic violence are more likely to cycle in and out of homelessness compared to the broader homeless population. The 2012 PSS found 37 per cent of women who experienced current partner violence had temporarily separated during the relationship and of these, 52 per cent had moved away from home. Violence also contributes to youth homelessness—a study found one third of young homeless people in Melbourne left home due to family violence.
- Employment: some researchers argue that approaches to domestic violence should consider factors including employment, as paid work can be pivotal in creating financial security. Women experiencing domestic violence are often disadvantaged in the labour market, and are more likely to have a disrupted work history. Some private sector organisations now offer domestic violence leave, though these provisions have not been evaluated.
The Commonwealth Government is responsible for over-arching government programs designed to reduce domestic violence nationally, though most programs and services aimed at preventing domestic violence and supporting survivors are administered through state and territory community services, health and law enforcement agencies.
Coalition and Labor governments have nominated reducing violence against women and domestic violence as a priority for many years. The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022 (National Plan) was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments in 2009. The National Plan set a framework for social change, coordination across levels of government and integrated responses. The National Plan is to be implemented through a series of four three‐year Action Plans over 12 years.
The first of these Action Plans is viewed as making significant progress, and most community feedback has been very positive. During a consultative process in early 2014, many argued that there had not been enough involvement of community groups, particularly those from Indigenous and culturally diverse backgrounds, and that progress had been too slow. The Second Action Plan, released in June 2014, acknowledges these concerns.
The National Plan is administered under the ‘National Initiatives’ component of Program 2.1 Family and Communities, which was allocated $28.7 million in the 2014–15 Budget. However, the Abbott Government did not produce a 2014–15 women’s Budget statement, and therefore violence against women funding breakdowns are not available.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, visit ANROWS Get Support website or call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), the 24 hour, National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line. In an emergency, call 000.
© Commonwealth of Australia
Anger and abuse in relationships begin with blame: “I feel bad, and it’s your fault.”
Even when they recognize the wrongness of their behavior, resentful, angry, or emotionally abusive people are likely to blame it on their partners: “You push my buttons,” or, “I might have overreacted, but I’m human, and look what you did!” Angry and abusive people feel likevictims, which justifies in their mindsvictimizing others.
Angry and abusive partners tend to be anxious by temperament. From the time they were children, they’ve had a sense of dread that things will go badly and that they will fail to cope. They try to control their environment to avoid feelings of failure and inadequacy. The strategy of trying to control others fails to satisfy them for the simple reason that the primary cause of their anxiety is within them. It springs from one of two sources—a heavy dread of failure, or fear of harm, isolation, and deprivation.
The Silent Abuser
Not all emotional abuse involves shouting or criticism. More common forms are “disengaging” (a distracted or preoccupied partner) or “stonewalling” (a partner who refuses to accept anyone else’s perspective).
Partners who stonewall may not overtly put anyone down. Nevertheless, they punishby refusing even to think about their partners’ perspectives. If they listen at all, they do so dismissively or impatiently.
Disengaging partners say, “Do whatever you want, just leave me alone.” They’re often workaholics, couch potatoes, flirts, or obsessive about something. They try to deal with their sense of inadequacy about relationships by simply not trying—since no attempt means no failure.
Both stonewalling and disengaging tactics can make you feel:
- Unseen and unheard;
- Like you don’t count;
- Like a single parent.
Harmful Adaptations to Anger and Abuse: Walking on Eggshells
The most insidious aspect of living with an angry or abusive partner is not the obvious—nervous reactions to shouting, name-calling, criticism or other demeaning behavior. It’s the adaptations you make to try to prevent those episodes. You walk on eggshells to keep the peace, or a semblance of connection.
Women can be especially vulnerable to the negative effects of walking on eggshells due to their greater tendency to be vulnerable to anxiety. Many may engage in constant self-editing and self-criticism to keep from “pushing his buttons.” Emotionally abused women may second-guess themselves so much that they feel as though they have lost themselves in a hole. Emotionally abused men tend to isolate more and more, losing themselves in work or hobbies—anything but family interactions.
No One Escapes the Effects of Abuse
Everyone in a walking-on-eggshells family loses some degree of dignity and autonomy. We know that no less than half the members of such families, including children, will suffer from clinical anxiety and/or depression. (“Clinical” meaning that the symptoms interfere with normal functioning. They can’t sleep, can’t concentrate, can’t work as efficiently, and can’t enjoy themselves without drinking.) Most of the adults lack genuine self-esteem(based on realistic self-appraisals), and the children rarely feel as good about themselves as other kids.
When it comes to more severe forms of destructiveness, purely emotional abuse is usually more psychologically harmful than physical abuse. There are a couple of reasons for this: Even in the most violent families, incidents tend to be cyclical. Early in the abuse cycle, a violent outburst may be followed by a “honeymoon period” of remorse, attention, affection, and generosity—but not genuine compassion. (The honeymoon stage eventually ends, as the victim begins to say, “Never mind the flowers, just stop hitting me!”) Emotional abuse, on the other hand, tends to happen every day—the effects are more harmful because they’re more frequent.
The other factor that makes emotional abuse so devastating is the greater likelihood that victims will blame themselves. When someone hits you, it’s easy to see that he or she is the problem. But when the abuse is subtle—saying or implying that you’re ugly, a bad parent, stupid, incompetent, not worth attention, or that no one could love you—you are more likely to think it’s your problem.
Important questions to ask of yourself:
- Do I like myself?
- Am I able to realize my potential?
- Does everyone I care about feel safe?
- Do my children like themselves?
- Are they able to realize their fullest potential?
- Do they feel safe?
Recovery from walking on eggshells requires removing focus from the repair of your relationship, or your partner, and placing it squarely on your personal healing. The good news is that the most powerful form of healing comes from within you. You can draw on your inner resources by reintegrating your deepest values into your everyday sense of self. This will make you feel more valuable, confident, and powerful, regardless of what your partner does. And it will give you the strength to seek a relationship in which you are valued and respected.
This is an interesting article I found in Pyschology Today about Anger & abuse & walking on eggshells.