Summer is a time of joy for many families. But for many women in an abusive relationship, or with an abusive former partner, it’s one of the most dangerous.
The holidays mean more social events, stretched budgets and family tensions. Far from being a time of relaxation, it can merely compound many frustrations, and is known to be a time when incidences of domestic and family violence increase.
We know that, on average, one woman has been murdered by a partner or former partner every week this year in Australia. One in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, which is just heartbreaking. And unacceptable.
Shockingly, for too many women there will be broken Domestic Violence Orders, and broken promises of good behaviour. This has to change. It just has to.
It may feel like an overwhelming issue, and that an individual can’t make a difference, but you can do something. We can all have safe and happy holidays. It is possible.
These statistics, the sharp rise in abuse in summer; it doesn’t have to be like this. We can help and support our neighbour. Our friend. Our sister. Our colleague. And we can start by educating ourselves.
The Queensland Government’s domestic and family violence website provides a wealth of information, resources and support in a simple, user-friendly way.
The site is designed to help and inform anyone who’s in a difficult situation, and guide all of us on the best ways to provide support to those in need.
Here are some things we can all do to support someone who is, or may be, experiencing domestic and family violence.
1. Know what domestic violence looks like.
Understand what domestic violence is: any instance where a person’s right to control their own body and behaviour is taken away from them by someone else, including by a partner or former partner. Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate between ages, or suburbs, or sexualities. It also isn’t isolated to physical abuse.
It can include:
- Emotional abuse (constant putdowns, aggressive criticism)
- Verbal abuse (yelling, shouting and swearing at you, using language towards you that makes you feel afraid, threatening to harm you or someone you care about).
- Stalking and harassment (constantly following or phoning you, cyberstalking or tracking you through social media or GPS).
- Financial abuse (not giving you enough money to survive, controlling your spending or forcing you to hand over your money).
- Damaging property to frighten you (punching holes in walls or breaking furniture).
- Social abuse (not letting you see your friends or family, isolating you from people you care about and who care about you).
- Depriving you of the necessities of life such as food, shelter and medical care.
2. Learn to recognise the signs of abuse.
While it may be something a lot of people think they need to face alone or don’t know how to ask for help for, someone experiencing domestic and family violence may:
- Seem afraid of someone close to them.
- Try to hide bruises (by wearing long sleeves in summer months, or give unlikely explanations for injuries).
- Have little or no say about how money is spent.
- Stop seeing friends and family and become isolated.
- Become depressed, unusually quiet or lose confidence.
- Have a partner who frequently accuses them of cheating or continually checks up on them.
- Be reluctant to leave their children with their partner.
If you notice these signs, the next step is to find out what you can do to help.