October 26, 2014

Jaslyn McCarthy

wrWe live in a day and age where the equality of the sexes isn’t as controversial as it was 50 years ago. More and more women not only have jobs but careers, and are the bread-winners of the household while their male counterparts are performing the domestic duties at home. A lot of women currently don’t rely on their male partners for financial security as a lot of relationships now solely depend on the joy of being with one another. Some would think that family or domestic violence is out of the question as women have made greater advances in education and the workplace but this is only just one of the common misconceptions of domestic violence.

Research from all kinds of domestic violence organisations such as White Ribbon show us that domestic violence occurs in every socio-economic class, through a wide range of cultural backgrounds, and for all sorts of different reasons. It proves to us that violence against women and children happens in every pocket of the world but it is not impossible to prevent. Some of us believe that violence towards women only comes about due to substance abuse, mental illness or economic disadvantage from either one or both of the two parties participating in domestic violence (perpetrator or the victim). This is not always the case, although sometimes domestic violence can cause these circumstances.

Sarah Mulholland, a community safety officer for the Banyule City Council helped me to better understand the affects it can have on young women saying, “All forms of violence against women potentially reinforce a range of other known determinants of overall health problems; these include poor physical and mental health, gender inequity, social isolation, and economic disadvantage. Women experiencing violence may also respond to the trauma of violence in ways that damage their own health. These responses can include substance use/abuse, depression, anxiety and social withdrawal”.

Domestic violence is not confined to heterosexual relationships only, and can happen between any relationships of any sexual orientation. In Banyule, family violence recorded in 2012-13 says that 76% of males were perpetrators, 73% of females were victims, and that 70% of victimised women were aged between 15 and 44 years. In our area, on average, 23 incidents of family violence were reported to police every week. This information came off the ‘Women’s Health In the North’ (WHIN) website. Based in Thornbury, they lead the regional strategy for preventing violence against women. Studies have found that in Australia between 12-23% of women aged 18–24 years had experienced physical and/or sexual violence, compared to the 7–9% of women aged 35–44 years, and 2–3% of women aged 55 years and over.

We clearly have some great organisations and strategies to minimise the occurrence of family violence but it is important to remember that it is still very persistent in our society today. We have all heard about some of our most respected celebrities such as Rihanna and Whitney Houston who have gone through the traumatic experiences of domestic violence and their eventual recovery. “Domestic violence is something that people don’t want anyone to know about” said Rihanna in an interview when she spoke out about the time she was physically abused by ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. Most people are not too open when it comes to discussing domestic violence even if they have never experienced it first-hand. Breaking the Taboo that surrounds the topic can be very difficult although there are ways to talk to somebody about it if you feel someone you know or you, yourself are suffering. There are 24 hour hotlines such as the ‘National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line’ that anyone can call while remaining anonymous to discuss your situation and even be given resources or places to go to take the issue further. Of course if your case is life-threatening or makes you feel extremely unsafe, triple zero should be your first option.

It is so important that people understand how much of a problem family violence is within our communities. It is important to get rid of any pre-conceived ideas of who domestic violence happens to and why it occurs. Most importantly it should be understood that women in heterosexual relationships are not always the victims of domestic violence and that it can happen to anyone at any time in any sort of relationship with no warning signs. The good news is that here in Australia we have so many amazing people who work hard out of their own good-will to help sufferers of family or domestic violence. Organisations such as White Ribbon, The Salvation Army, Women’s Council For Domestic and Family Violence and Reach Out all offer online resources, help lines and places to visit if you’re feeling like a victim in a case of domestic and family violence. But it’s not only people who work in these organisations, it can be anybody you trust that you can express your concerns and feelings to. No one should feel unsafe in their own home or environment as we all have the right to be happy and comfortable. No matter what your age or gender, you have the right to speak up to somebody about family violence. If you ever feel a friend or family member is suffering, don’t just wait for them to do something about it as they may never do so. Ask them if they’re okay and if they give you permission, tell a professional what they’re going through and seek help. It is important to remember physical or verbal aggression by one toward their partner is abuse, even if it happens only once.

 – Jaslyn McCarthy

Domestic Violence Victoria:

9921 0828

Provides contacts for domestic violence services in Victoria.

Domestic Violence Helpline:

1800 800 098, 24 hours, 7 days a week

Telephone counselling for victims of domestic violence and their concerned friends. Also provides information about services for those affected by domestic violence or who are troubled by their own behaviour.

Mensline Australia:

1300 78 99 78 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A dedicated telephone and online support, information and referral service, helping men to deal with relationship problems in a practical and effective way.









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