real life

6 surprising, real-world ways to combat domestic violence.

One in three women in Australia will suffer violence at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.

Trigger Warning: This post deals with issues of domestic violence and may be triggering for survivors of abuse.

Violence against women is a global epidemic – and in Australia, about one-third of women will experience some form of violence at the hands of a current or former partner.

One in three.

With that staggering figure in mind, we were desperate to find practical, positive ideas that might go some way to solving the omnipresent, horrific threat of violence against women.

So today, we offer up six ways other people are trying to reverse the alarming rate of domestic violence.

They are proof that feeling helpless is not our only option- and that there IS more we can and should be doing to protect women.

1. Panic buttons for when perpetrators are nearby.

In Brazil, panic buttons with GPS tracking are given to domestic violence victims who obtain restraining orders against their abusers. The devices, once pressed, quickly signal to authorities that a victim needs help, transmit images that help police track down the perpetrator, and even record and store audio for later police use.

The Australian government funded a program trial for a similar button called “B-safe”  in Australia a few years ago – but sadly, the program was never renewed after the trial’s completion in 2011.

Could panic buttons help combat domestic violence?

Rachael McKay, a B-Safe project officer, told 7.30 in 2011 that the program, which won an Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Award,  “reduced breaches of intervention orders.”

“It’s actually reduced physical assaults against more than half of the 72 women. None of the children have been assaulted during that three-year period,” Ms McKay said.

Luckily, a similar proposal is now being considered in NSW and WA, with Community Services and Family Minister Pru Goward having recently suggested the introduction of compulsory GPS tracking bracelets for offenders.

2. Programs that prepare abused women to re-enter the workforce.

Eighty-five percent of women who leave an abusive relationship return, with financial dependence on the perpetrator remaining a significant factor in the perpetuation of that cycle.

As Forbes explains, barriers to leaving for good include:

… Having at least one dependent child, not being employed outside of the home, possessing no property that is solely theirs, and lacking access to cash or bank and credit accounts. For these reasons it is very likely that many of these women would experience a decline in living standards and security of life for themselves and their children if they were to leave their partner.

International charity Dress for Success helps to break that cycle by providing professional clothes, a support network and career development tools that build women’s economic independence.

Abused women are referred to the service by non-profit and government agencies including homeless shelters, and are given a suit and accessories on their first visit; when they get a job, they’re given enough clothes to form the foundation for a full professional wardrobe.

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It’s practical, it’s effective, and we love it.

3. Screening questions to help police identify the most high-risk cases.

Since 2007, domestic violence homicides in Maryland, US, have fallen by 40 per cent. That’s an impressive achievement. So what does that state do differently, and can Australia follow its example?

The key is this: Maryland has implemented an easy-to-use screening tool for policemen responding to domestic violence calls, the New Republic reports.

The statistics-based tool, developed by a Johns Hopkins University professor, involves a series of questions for police to ask that help determine how much risk the victim is in – and whether their life may be in danger.

Some of the questions are obvious (‘has the abuser used a weapon against you?’), but others try to identify “less obvious indicators of fatal violence” (such as ‘has he ever tried to kill himself?’ and ‘does she have a child that he knows isn’t his?’).

Australian authorities like the police and child protection workers do use various domestic violence screening procedures already, but they’ve yet to adopt the Maryland model.

Anti-abuse beauty kits.

4. “Anti-abuse” beauty kits.

One non-profit in the US has adopted a totally novel approach to awareness-raising and outreach: it trains beauty salon staff  to distribute emergency information concealed in compacts and lipsticks.

Clever, huh?

The Salon Project teaches salon owners and stylists about warning signs and where to refer clients in need of help – the idea being that at salons, “women feel support and comfortable enough to talk openly about what’s going on in their lives,” the Project’s website says.

According to the organisation:

“Salons exist in virtually every community and domestic violence knows no boundaries. Salons are an ideal place for women to learn about the warning signs of domestic violence, where they can receive information from a trusted friend.”

A similar organisation in Dubai, run by the City of Hope Women’s Shelter, passes out beauty kits with similar information — but with a dramatic twist.

The cover of the City of Hope ‘anti-abuse kits’ are plain black, but inside, the eye shadows and blushes have labels like: “If dragged across the floor”, “If punched in the face”, and “If burnt with an iron.”

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Confronting, but powerful.

5. Using the power of technology.

It’s sometimes easier to tell someone you don’t know about a problem in your life. And it’s sometimes easier again to tell something that isn’t a person (venting on Facebook, anybody?).

That’s the line of thought behind a $4 million US government-funded research venture, which is looking into whether pregnant women are more likely to disclose domestic violence to a computer than a human.

Domestic violence is often exacerbated during pregnancy, and women who suffer abuse during their pregnancy are likely to be abused more in the first weeks after the baby is born. In an attempt to help these women, researchers from the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Virginia have developed a mobile tablet (like an iPad) that could be taken to women during home visits from visiting nurses – and would ask a series of questions about intimate partner violence.

The researchers hypothesised that this tablet would increase the number of women admitting to domestic violence by up to one third. Our fingers are crossed.

6. Spreading the anti-violence message using tattoos.

A “Breaking the Silence” tattoo.

Finally, members of a domestic violence advocacy group in the US have been getting tattoos to raise domestic violence awareness and funds for the cause.

Members of Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence have been getting “Forever BTS” tattoos as part of a campaign called SurvivorINK, reminding others to “Break the Silence.”

According to NBC San Diego:

As part of the campaign, the organisation is asking tattoo artists around the world to tattoo the infinity symbol with the letters “BTS” on participating supporters and donate the proceeds from the ink work back to the organisation. The group is asking tattoo artists to charge a minimum of $30 for the ink.”

It’s not a tactic that will appeal to everyone, but it’s definitely an effective way of getting people to ask questions about the global domestic violence epidemic.

It got us talking, didn’t it?

While we’re on the topic: here are some Australian and international campaigns aimed at tackling domestic violence. Which do you think is most effective?

Please share this post to help raise awareness of the real-world steps we can take to stamp out domestic violence. Because the current situation just isn’t good enough.

If you believe you may be an abusive partner, you can receive help via Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277. If you have experienced, or are at risk of domestic violence or sexual assault, you can receive help by calling 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732. If you are in immediate danger please call the police on 000.