Violence and abuse are never acceptable. If you feel that you or someone you know may be in danger of family violence, something needs to be done. Fortunately, there are many services and resources that can help when you are ready to ask for it.
Violence and abuse may not always be clear cut, as abuse can take many different forms. It can begin gradually and creep up to the point where you don’t know how you got into this situation. Millions of Australians have experienced violence or abuse from a current or former partner – so you are definitely not alone.
Around half of the victims of violence or abuse have children in their care. The children may or may not be directly subjected to the abuse, but they will very likely pick up on more than you realise. Kids may hear threats of violence or witness actual violence. They may also comfort you or each other after violent events have occurred, or they may clean up breakages and mess. They experience family violence in a number of ways, which can have life-long effects.
The perpetrator uses violence to control and dominate another person. They want to cause fear and harm, either physical, psychological or emotional abuse.
The time of separation is a very dangerous one for sufferers of family violence, with more perpetrators likely to escalate their actions at this time. Sometimes separation can be the first time you experience violence or abuse from your partner – this is still not ok.
Not all people who suffer from family violence or domestic abuse are the same. Not all perpetrators look or act the same. Not all experiences of family violence are the same, although there will be similarities.
There is no right or wrong way for you to feel if you are in a situation of family violence. Your pain is no less important than anyone else’s, as are your legal rights and those of your children.
Family violence can present in many, many different ways, including:
- physical and sexual assault
- verbal, emotional, psychological and financial abuse
- technology-facilitated abuse
- deprivation of liberty, such as preventing you from seeing family, friends or maintaining connections with your culture or religion
- economic abuse
- intentionally causing injury or death to a pet
- threats to you, your family or pets
- damage to property
Source: Relationships Australia https://www.relationships.org.au/relationship-advice/publications/pdfs/women-and-separation-pdf
Signs that you may be in an abusive relationship
It isn’t always easy to tell if you are in an abusive relationship. It can also be difficult to identify if someone close to you is experiencing family violence. Behaviours from the perpetrator are typical of jealousy, put-downs, threats and control, as well as actual violence – and can include:
- unfairly and regularly accuses their partner of flirting or being unfaithful
- controls how they spend money
- decides what to wear or eat
- humiliates them in front of other people
- monitors what they are doing, including reading emails and text messages
- discourages or prevents them from seeing friends and family
- threatens to hurt them, the children or pets
- physically assaults them (hitting, biting, slapping, kicking, pushing)
- yells at them
- threatens to use a weapon
- constantly compares them with other people
- constantly criticises their intelligence, mental health and appearance
- prevents them from practising their religion.
Source: White Ribbon
What are your legal rights?
No matter what the basis of your relationship is, you do not have to put up with violence or abuse. This includes if you are married to someone, living with them in a domestic relationship or financially dependent on them in any way.
You have the right to your freedom, safety and security.
You have the right to leave and to protect any children in your care. Beyond this, you may also have the right to some division of property and payment of child support after you leave, to help keep you and your children financially stable.
What can you do?
Talk to a trusted friend or family member to get support
Call a family violence or relationships advice line to get advice
Call the police if you are in immediate danger
Call DHHS (Centrelink) for advice on government services that may be able to help you
Join a support group for sufferers of family violence
Talk to a financial counsellor about your rights to property and financial support
Talk to a counsellor to get advice on your options, to manage your emotions and plan your actions
Contact a refuge if you need somewhere to stay or financial or practical assistance
Talk to a family and relationships lawyer about your rights and your future
Important things to remember
You are not responsible for your partner’s violent behaviour. You are not guilty, and you do not deserve it.
There are many services that can help you, including phone lines for advice and even shelters and financial and practical assistance if you need to leave.
Resources that may help
1800RESPECT (1800respect.org.au or 1800 737 732) offers a 24-hour service with advice, counselling and options.
Whiteribbon.org.au is a good resource for information and support services near you.
If you are being violent or abusive towards a partner or children – this is not acceptable. You should seek professional help immediately. You are breaking the law and may lose your partner and contact with your children.
This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article