With all the madness going on right now, and the very real idea that we will likely soon be self-isolating (or already are), it’s more important than ever to take a minute to reflect on the women around us who may not feel safe in their own homes.
DV service providers are bracing for a spike in abusive incidents as more people are encouraged to stay home.
The ELC business and brand is founded on the sisterhood—looking out for each other and loving each other, and I have been so saddened to hear of the tragic cases of domestic violence that we’ve already seen this year.
As of 24 February, NINE women in Australia have lost their lives to domestic violence. That means we’re averaging one a week.
If you think it doesn’t affect you, that couldn’t be further from the truth. One in four women have experienced some type of abuse from a current or former partner since the age of 15. This means it is statistically very likely that you actually know multiple women who have been abused.
The thing is, it’s not always obvious. Often it is a huge surprise to everyone when it finally comes out. Sometimes they seem like the perfect couple. Until they’re not.
What actually is domestic violence?
Lifeline says abuse is when someone who has a close personal relationship with you makes you feel afraid, powerless, or unsafe. It can be physical, but can also be emotional and psychological.
Anyone can experience domestic and family violence. It happens across communities, ages, cultures and sexes, though most often to women and children.
Do you know someone who is experiencing domestic violence? Here’s what you can do.
If you suspect a friend, family member or co-worker is a victim of DV, please don’t assume it will work itself out. It’s hard to get involved in something so personal, but you can’t always wait until the person asks for your help. She may be ashamed, confused, or afraid.
Domestic violence isn’t a “private matter.” It’s a crime, so we can’t look away any more.
Watch for signs that something is wrong.
These could be anxiety around her partner, unexplained bruises, increased isolation, ending phone calls when partner comes into the room, and controlling behaviours from her partner (i.e. making her leave her job or go home early). Noticeable changes in behaviour or personality.
Listen to what she isn’t saying.
Did you hear about the emergency 000 operator who fielded a call from a woman insisting on ordering a pizza? He worked out that the woman on the other end of the line was actually in danger, and he sent her help, possibly saving lives with his quick thinking.
Be there to support her unconditionally
If you don’t feel you can ask outright if she is OK, then try bringing up the subject of domestic violence in a more general way, saying you are very concerned about what’s happening to women in Australia. See how she reacts. Let her know you are there for her if she ever needs anything at all. Give her your number if she doesn’t have it.
If she doesn’t engage, don’t give up. It takes a lot of courage to admit to it. Keep checking, and don’t assume it’s fine.
If she does confide in you, please believe her.
Listen without judging and make sure you are in a safe place. Don’t criticise her if she is not ready to leave yet. It is often more complicated than just packing a bag.
If she is ready, help her to make a safety plan.
Outline the steps she can take to leave. If you feel out of your depth, then encourage her to reach out to a dedicated service provider that can support her. Offer to be with her while she calls. If you are ever afraid, call 000.
Here are some resources:
- National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service: 1800 737 732 (24/7)
- Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277
- Lifeline also has a really helpful page that explains more about the effects of domestic violence as well as services that can help.
Other women are going to be crucial in curbing this horrible statistic.
We have to protect each other. Open our eyes and our hearts and ask questions that make us a little uncomfortable.
Mamas, please teach your sons (and daughters) what consent means. Model to them what a strong, healthy relationship looks like. Talk to them gently about domestic violence (if they’re ready) because it has been hidden for far too long.
If we come together, we can be so powerful.
Please look after each other. Support your sisters. Because this can happen to anyone.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Lots of love,
And please remember, if you are experiencing abuse or violence, it is not your fault. Domestic violence is a crime, and it is the abuser who is responsible.
If this brings up issues for you, please call Lifeline: 13 11 14