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Dreaming of Utopia - a world without domestic violence

23 November 2020

I often find myself dreaming of Utopia, where domestic and family violence doesn’t exist. Alongside many passionate advocates, I’m determined that we get there, and it’s an honour and a privilege to serve in this eradication space.

It’s not often you get let into other people’s private worlds – especially when it comes to the difficult, painful, and hard-to-articulate areas.

Since becoming the Chair of Westpac Group’s Domestic and Family Violence Employee Action Group, so many people – colleagues, customers, and friends – have trusted me with deeply personal details and often confronting experiences.

You may have an image in your mind of what victims of domestic and family violence look like but the truth is, it can happen to anyone – it doesn’t discriminate on age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education, or social status.

Often abuse starts subtly and gets worse over time. Recognising patterns of abusive behaviour can help provide early warning signs for what may be an escalating issue. These patterns of behaviour practised consistently can be a warning sign: isolating you from friends, family and colleagues; calling you names, insulting or putting you down; controlling the finances and preventing you from accessing money; acting in a jealous or possessive manner; accusing you of being unfaithful; trying to control when you see a health care provider. For same sex, bisexual or transgender, you may also be told by abusers that the authorities won’t help you; that leaving means you are admitting you are deviant; tells you women can’t be violent; justifies abuse by telling you you’re not “really” a lesbian, bisexual, transgender.

Of course, it can be really difficult to identify what is happening, especially when you are in the relationship and may feel to blame. The advice from experts is to take a step back and look at larger patterns in your relationship. Then, think about abusive behaviour patterns and who regularly uses them. The person who routinely uses them is the abuser.

During my career, I’ve had many people confide in me, sharing their personal stories of abuse, stalking, and times when they feared for their safety. These people, predominantly but not exclusively women, are some of the most intelligent, strong minded, career driven people I know and not in a million years did I think it would happen to them.

You’ve probably heard some of the harrowing statistics on domestic and family violence. The information these stats convey alone is hard to accept. But think about the people behind these numbers – each of them unique individuals, with an identity and a personality, with likes and dislikes, with hopes and dreams.

It makes me emotional to think about the ‘what ifs’.

  • What if organisations like Westpac didn’t offer support for those who find themselves in abusive relationships?
  • What if all those women, men and children - who have lived through horrific experiences, rebuilt their lives and are now inspiring others – remained feeling helpless? What if they had stayed?
  • What if community partners didn’t exist?
  • What if there weren’t organisations to help people rebuild their lives and set up a new home?
  • What if there were no support services like financial relief packages, legal advice, counselling, or resources for children?
  • What if there was nowhere to turn to?

Thankfully, there is always a way.

Say something. Support is always available.

The most heart-warming realisation I’ve had in my role at Westpac Group’s Domestic and Family Violence Employee Action Group is that no matter what the situation – whether it’s an employee, a banker who’s helping a customer, or a friend of a friend – we’ve always had somewhere to point for help.

If you are experiencing domestic and family violence or if something simply doesn’t feel right for you, say something. I know this is a big step and it’s not easy, but you need to know that you’re not alone and you will be supported every step of the way. What if there is a safer, more joyful life for you?

If you know someone who may be impacted by domestic and family violence, whether it’s just an inkling or you notice they’re not their usual self, say something. Even if your suspicions aren’t correct or the person isn’t willing or ready to share with you, you have shown them that you care, and that support is at hand. What if your simple question positively changed a person’s life?

Remember, there is always a way.

Support information

Call 000 if you are in immediate danger.

To access 24/7 counselling and support call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.

To speak with a specialist team at Westpac who can help you manage your finances during difficult circumstances call Priority Assist on 1800 063 509.

Visit Westpac’s Domestic and Family Violence webpage for more information.

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