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What is family violence
Family violence or domestic violence is any violent, threatening, coercive or controlling behaviour perpetrated within a current or past family, domestic or intimate relationship.
Family violence is determined not only by physical injury but through:
- direct or indirect threats of harm
- sexual assault
- emotional and psychological torment
- economic control
- damage to property or belongings
- social isolation
- any behaviour which causes another person to live in fear
- behaviour that causes a child to hear, witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of any of the above
While it is true anyone can experience or perpetrate family violence, family violence is a crime predominantly perpetrated by men against women.
Signs of abuse
Abuse can be difficult to identify because the violent person doesn’t always act this way or you may not recognise what you are experiencing as violence.
It’s quite normal for couples to argue and so long as each partner feels respected and confident to voice their opinions, arguing can be a sign of a healthy relationship. If you often feel afraid of upsetting the other person however, you feel you can’t say no, or you change your behaviour to avoid their anger, then this can be a sign that you are being abused.
Does your partner, your ex, or any other family member:
- Control, limit or prevent you from seeing family or friends?
- Threaten to hurt you, your kids, family members or a pet?
- Make you feel scared to say no to them?
- Smash things or threaten to damage or withhold your belongings?
- Limit your freedom in any way – i.e. lock you in your house or car?
- Force or trick you into having sex or do sexual things you don’t want to?
- Constantly check where you are and what you’re doing?
- Call you names or belittle you?
- Try to damage your relationship with your kids?
- Control, limit or withhold access to money?
If you said ‘yes’ to any of these, if you don’t feel safe, respected and cared for, then something isn’t right and chances are high you are experiencing family violence.
Family Violence and your Kids
While most mums try hard to protect their kids from violence in the home, kids are very sensitive. Exposure to family violence can have serious impacts on a child’s current and future physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing.
Children exposed to family violence may:
- Feel frightened, helpless or unsafe.
- Try to protect their mum.
- Feel angry and blame her.
- Think it’s their fault.
- Feel unwell with stomach cramps or headaches.
- Have trouble concentrating or difficulty at school.
- Have difficulty with friendships.
- ‘Act out’ or withdraw.
- Learn that violence can give them control over others.
Some partners will try to deliberately damage the relationship between a mother and her children. They may:
- Tell your kids you are a ‘bad’ mother.
- Encourage them to ignore what you say.
- Override/undermine your authority.
- Stop you from attending to your child.
- Express jealousy of your pregnancy or when you are breastfeeding your baby.
What you can do for your kids:
Remember, while you do have a responsibility to protect your kids as best you can, you are not to blame for your partner’s behaviour. A warm and supportive relationship with you or another family member can make a positive difference for children. You can help your kids by:
- Giving lots of cuddles.
- Reminding them often how much you love them.
- Asking how they feel, listening and giving them opportunities to talk about the violence.
- Reassuring them the abuse is not their fault.
- Letting them know that other kids have similar experiences and assuring them any feelings they are experiencing are normal.
- Showing them respect and helping them show respect for others.
- Letting them know it’s not their role to protect you.
- Showing your kids you are interested in them – play games with them, support their achievements and involve them in sport and community activities.
- Getting help and support for you and your kids.
Make a safety plan
It’s important to think carefully about your safety and prepare yourself with a safety plan in case you or your children are in physical danger.
Whether you decide to stay or leave the relationship:
- Plan where you can go and who to call in an emergency.
- Keep important items together in a safe place in case you need to leave suddenly —such as copies of birth certificates, bank cards, Centrelink details, money, medication, clothes, keys.
- Teach your kids what to do and who to call if they don’t feel safe.
- Talk to someone.
- Take ‘time out’.
- Call a family violence service. They will support you and provide you with information and advice to help you keep you and your child safe.
- Find out how the law can protect you.
Where to get help
If you are in immediate danger call 000 and ask for police assistance.
If you are in need assistance and are not in immediate danger contact safe steps Family Violence Response Centre on 1800 015 188. safe steps is a state-wide service for Victorian women and their children who are experiencing family violence. http://www.safesteps.org.au/
For counselling and advice contact 1800 RESPECT https://www.1800respect.org.au/
Alternatively, you can contact us at the Council of Single Mothers and their Children on 03 9654 0622 or 1300 552 511 if you are outside the Melbourne metropolitan area.
For other resources go to Domestic Violence Resource Centre: http://www.dvrcv.org.au/
For women outside Victoria seeking advice or assistance please go to: http://www.dvrcv.org.au/talk-someone/services-other-states
Relationships Australia provides relationship support services for individuals, families and communities to help build positive and respectful relationships. The have also developed this useful guide for women on how to stay safe during and after separation.