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This summer, Australian women deserve better.

Queensland Government
Thanks to our brand partner, Queensland Government

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.

Australian women deserve to know they are not alone this Christmas. Source: Getty
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3. Start a conversation.

It is important no blame or judgement is placed on any person who is in this situation. Remember that every relationship is different, and no-one except the person in it can truly understand the reasons why someone might have stayed, or left.

If you are a bystander in the situation, here's a few tips about what you can do:

  • Remember the person has usually been conditioned to think the situation is their fault, so they may react defensively. For that reason, ensure you start a conversation in a safe place, when there's time to talk.
  • Effective opening lines can include, "I am worried about you because I don't get to see you often anymore" or "You look unhappy lately".
  • Believe what they tell you, because it is most likely they are only telling you a fraction of the story at first, to downplay the abuse.
  • Don't tell them what to do; instead, ask how you can help them.
  • Let them know that you care, and you support them - and you do not blame them.
  • Empower them with information; direct them to resources that will help them assess their situation.
  • Support them even if they choose to stay. It's vitally important that you do not withdraw your support, or make it conditional on their action or inaction.

The website also offers suggestions on what you can do if your friend or family member won't talk to you, and if children are involved. It's not easy stuff to have to deal with, but it is helpful to know there is support available if you need it.

4. Know where to go for for help.

No matter the situation, whether you're concerned for someone else, or need information and support, government websites offer comprehensive resources.

The Queensland Government's domestic and family violence website covers topics such as how to develop a safety plan and getting protection from a court.

Remember, the holiday season doesn't need to end in a nightmare. We should have a zero count, and it is possible to continue the year—and every year—like that.

Every person needs to know they are empowered to help to reduce the impact of domestic and family violence. And, if we can all harness that power together - imagine what we can achieve by next Christmas.

This post was brought to you by the Queensland Government.

 

For anyone experiencing domestic violence or abuse, please seek professional help and contact:

1800RESPECT (National)

1800 737 732

24 hours, 7 days a week

DVConnect Womensline (Queensland)

1800 811 811

24 hours, 7 days a week

 DVConnect Mensline (Queensland)

1800 600 636

9am to midnight, 7 days a week

 If you, or someone else, is in immediate danger call Triple Zero (000) and ask for the Police.

If you or anyone you care about is experiencing crisis, depression or suicidal thoughts, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

Queensland Government

It doesn’t have to be physical to be abuse. If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic and family violence—reach out for help. For more information on the signs and effects of domestic and family violence, visit the Queensland Government’s Domestic and Family Violence website. Call the National Sexual Assault and Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT/1800 737 732. Or if you or someone you know is in immediate threat of violence, call the Police on Triple Zero (000). Authorised by the Queensland Government, William Street, Brisbane.

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