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Counteracting Domestic and Family Violence

20 November 2017

The leading preventable cause of death and injury for women between the ages of 15 and 44 is at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.

Domestic and family violence statistics are confronting and unacceptable:

On average one woman in Australia is killed each week by a current or former partner;

a third of women in Australia experience violence perpetrated by someone known to them;

every night, around 50,000 women are homeless across Australia,

33,000 of those women are in this situation as a result of domestic and family violence;

more than half of these women are turned away from crisis accommodation because there are just not enough beds, Australia wide.

Existing services cannot meet the demand for crisis accommodation for women who are homeless.

Women’s Community Shelters works with communities to establish new shelters, providing emergency short-term accommodation and support in a safe environment.

Women and children leaving a dangerous domestic situation need a range of support services, not just help finding affordable housing. Services include access to counselling, health care, assistance to navigate government bureaucracy, legal help, further education, including in financial literacy, and employment to re-establish control over their lives.

At a time of reduced government spending, Women’s Community Shelters offers a new ‘tri-partite’ funding model in which Government, philanthropy/business and community all work to provide funding to establish and operate shelters.

In the South-East Sydney region there are currently no available safe accommodation options for women and children to access. The Women’s Community Shelters (WCS) is planning to open another four to five shelters by the end of 2018, and one of these is the Bayside Women’s Shelter which is set to open in South-East Sydney soon.

Once established this shelter will provide safe, temporary accommodation (up to three months) for women, with or without children, who are homeless or escaping domestic violence in the South-East Sydney area.

How you can help

If you would like to make a difference to women and children escaping domestic violence, you can always donate to the Bayside Women’s Shelter by visiting the website.

A few strategies for leaving

  • Plan ahead. Making a decision to leave is difficult and often happens in an emergency, accompanied by danger and panic. If you are able to prepare to leave at any time, you will feel more confident and comfortable.
  • Financial dependence is one of the main reasons women stay in abusive relationships. If you can hide small amounts of money over time you can build an emergency fund. Keep your own account in your name only.
  • Have a planned excuse: having a reason or excuse to leave the house, particularly if you have children, can help.
  • Know where to go and what to do: a relative or friend who can offer a safe place to stay for a short period of time. It is also worth researching organisations that can assist with temporary accommodation in a safe place.
  • Gather important documentation and keep it in one safe, easily accessible place. Documents should include birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates. Copies of accounts, financials and more – can be photographed and stored on your phone.
  • Set up the emergency or panic function on your mobile phone. Each mobile phone is different, so research the specific functions for your phone within the settings.
  • Don’t be afraid to contact the police if you are concerned for the safety of yourself and your children. Most police stations will have a domestic violence police officer or liaison.
  • Centrelink can provide crisis payments and other support in cases of domestic and family violence. Call Centrelink on 131 850 or visit your nearest Centrelink office. Find your local Centrelink office online.

For information and referral to local services, 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or

  • In an emergency call 000

Recently, Ruby spoke with Dr Dina McMillan a social psychologist and expert in the field of abusive behaviours. She says many abusers have behaviours and actions that mirror the tactics and strategies cults employ to win and subjugate members.

She raises awareness around the “abuser profile” and the tactics and strategies they use to gain the kind of authority they need to disempower their targets and control them to the extent they can physically and or emotionally assault them.

The tactics used to set up the abuse dynamic are simple and extremely effective, she says, but that simplicity makes them easily identifiable and, she believes, once you see the signs you can recognise them for what they are and take a course of action to get away from the perpetrator.

Here are some tips on behaviours that are not normal

  • Abusers move fast. They sweep in and take over a person’s life.
  • They may tell you how wonderful you are (before they even know you well) or flatter you outrageously. They may listen closely to everything you say, always wanting to know more, and pay your bills or buy you lovely gifts within the first few weeks of knowing you.
  • Their process will also include convincing you that their other actions – perhaps controlling who you see and speaking negatively about your family and friends - are because they care so much about you and that their actions are demonstrations of love. Criticisms of you and your friends and constant demands, jealousy and spurts of anger, are also due to a passionate interest in you.

What to think about

  • Don’t automatically associate what appear as romantic actions with positive intentions.
  • Reflect and take the time to learn about a person’s real goals and objectives. In the early days of a potentially (or worse) abusive relationship, many women believe and probably have friends and family confirm that the behaviour is “so romantic” or that “he loves you so much, he wants you with him all the time”. However, Dina says, as the process continues and the person is further marginalised, their self-esteem is further eroded and the opportunity to leave becomes more and more difficult.
  • Domestic abuse affects families, women and children, and it inhibits potential. Living in fear increases anxiety, emotional and physical turmoil, and this has been shown to affect a person’s high-level thinking and leave them functioning below capacity.

“I don’t want people to be so paranoid they think that someone buying flowers is an abuser,” explains Dina, “but I do want women to remain aware and reflect on behaviours before getting involved with someone.”