Domestic and family violence (DFV) is a complex and quite horrific issue that a lot of people do not properly understand. Unfortunately, it is easy to be ignorant of as it more often than not takes place behind closed doors.
May in Queensland is ‘Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month’. The aim of this month is to raise community awareness of DFV and to send a clear message that violence of this sort will not be tolerated.
DFV Month also aims to ensure those who are experiencing violence can access help; while also encouraging people who use violence to take responsibility for their behaviour and seek support to change.
Academics describe Domestic Violence as a complex pattern of behaviours that may include physical acts of violence, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. The use of the word ‘complex’ in this definition sums up this problem very effectively.
So How big is the problem? Gigantic.
A new report from the government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has revealed the extent of Australia’s DFV crisis. The report compiled comprehensive data on the prevalence of violence, finding that on average:
“One woman a week and one man a month is killed by a current or former partner.”
The report also uncovered that family violence is a leading cause of homelessness in Australia. Australian police deal with 5,000 domestic violence matters on average every week. In fact, the violence results in a police call-out at an average once every two minutes across the country.
Bevan and Higgins (2002) found a relationship between childhood exposure to DFV and the psychological abuse of spouses. This correlates with the recent government report stating that 64% of Domestic and Family Violence perpetrators witnessed domestic violence as children. This statistic encapsulates so much about this issue.
The heart breaking truth is that Children who witness domestic and family violence grow up in an environment that is unpredictable, filled with anxiety and controlled by fear. This can lead to significant emotional and psychological trauma.
As Powell and Murray (2008) explained, children were previously seen as “silent witnesses”. There has been much research to indicate that a pattern of violent behaviour may emerge in many abusive relationships. The pattern more often or not begins with the “silent witness.” This pattern is commonly referred to in research as the ‘cycle of violence’, first referred to in 1979 and has been continually well-publicised in different forms since that time.
How can we help the ‘Silent Witnesses’, and put an end to the ‘Cycle of Violence’?
Unfortunately, a recent study conducted by Humphreys, Healey, Kirkwood, & Nicholson, (2018) concluded that it is extremely challenging to assist and develop an appropriate pathway for children who have lived in a domestic violence household.
Trying to help children and adults that have been affected by DFV can be like putting a band-aid on a bullethole. It takes time to heal, and will need the right attention.
But there is some good amidst the ugly. There are approximately 85 Queensland organisations and foundations aiming to help the victims. Including; 1800 Respect, White Ribbon, DV Connect, and Hillsong City Care’s initiative called ‘HOMES OF PEACE’. Homes of Peace is a support program that provides housing and case management support to assist people after experiencing DFV. There are many wonderful organisations aiming to do the same, and many that offer counselling.
It’s an extremely heavy topic that we mustn’t stay ignorant to. Creating more awareness is essential. It is vital that victims and perpetrates understand that love shouldn’t hurt and DFV situations aren’t accidental.
YOU can help too. You can help bring a little bit of good to an ugly and unpleasant situation. There are so many organisations that you can donate to show your support that violence is never okay.
we should always take any opportunity to let someone in our life know how loved and valued they are, we just never know what they might be going through behind closed doors.
But most importantly, if we do come across any signs of DFV, don’t be a By stander. Do something.