Domestic Violence is more common than you think and it is a very sensitive subject, often it is left to fester behind closed doors. Someone you know may be affected; a friend, neighbour, co-worker, relative or acquaintance. There are some hints that can set an alarm to domestic or family violence:
- Unexplained bruises and injuries that have vague causes
- Changes in behaviour (either her or her children)
- Cancel plans at the last minute (due to fear of upsetting partner)
- Her partner makes belittling comments about her in front of others
- Her partner is over attentive and ‘hovers’ around her watching her communicate with others
- General behaviour that exhibits she is being controlled (the way she dresses, what she spends her money on, how frequently she contacts her family & friends and how social she is)
When your loved one tells you about experience with Domestic Violence, it is important not to appear shocked and remain calm. Above all else, it is important to be there for your loved one and show support. Remember ‘violence’ does not mean just physical abuse, it is alot more complicated.
Why is she being abused?
There are many misconceptions as to why women are abused. The stereotypical thoughts are:
- She deserved it, it’s her fault she aggravated him
- He is not that kind of a man, he wouldn’t hurt a fly
- It’s her problem. Not mine
- If it’s so bad, why doesn’t she just leave?
- How can she still care for him after the abuse he does
- If wanted my help, she could have just asked
- Why would she put her children through that?
These are all WRONG
- Problems exist in relationships, but violence will not resolve the issue
- Many abusers aren’t abusive in other relationships; often they appear likeable and charming even while violent at home. This can prevent women from disclosing as people see him as a ‘nice guy’. Just because YOU haven’t seen him be harmful, doesn’t mean he isn’t
- Domestic violence is a crime and can have consequences on your loved one, her children and a web of people
- She may not leave for a number of reasons. Ending a relationship can be difficult and furthers reasons such as financial dependence on him may exist. She may not know that there are services which can help her
- Relationships have happy and sad times. The abuser may show remorse after the acts he commits, and your loved one may have hope that he changes.
- It is difficult to understand why your friend hasn’t confided in you. She may feel ashamed and conflicted by her feelings for her other half
- You are not to judge how she feels about her children. She is trying her best to shelter them from the violence by taking the heat, but she may not realise how much they see.
What you can do to help
Don’t judge or criticise actions, because what’s done is done. The best thing that you can do is to make sure she talks about her issues and problems. Try to guide her to domestic violence support services, help her make a safety plan and find her a safe place. Suggest that she should keep a diary about what is happening, as long as it is safe and will not be found by the aggressor. It may also be a good idea to propose keeping a ‘go bag’, a bag with money, clothes and identification (birth certificates, bank books, Centrelink information & educational records) just in case of emergencies. Do not pressure her to leave, it is likely that this will backfire and she may cease to confide in you. After all, your loved one is looking for someone who is going to be supportive; you should feel humbled that she trusts you with her problems.