Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness in Australia, with one in six women and one in 16 men in Australia experiencing violence at the hands of a current and former partner.[i]
Those fleeing abusive situations are at their most vulnerable and often don’t have access to safe, secure and affordable housing, leaving them with no other option.
Domestic violence does not discriminate and is experienced by people of any age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and profession.
Abuse can take many forms, whether it be physical, emotional, mental or sexual, and the effects have a profound impact on the victim who may go on to experience severe anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Domestic violence also impacts communities through loss of employment and impacts on the health care system.
Domestic violence is everybody’s problem, and the more we educate ourselves on the issue, the better equipped we are to help those in need.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and need assistance or advice, please see the list of resources at the end of this post.
Here are five signs that someone you know might be experiencing domestic violence and ways you can be of assistance.
1. They become withdrawn
Emotional abusers belittle their victims and eat away at their self-confidence through nasty comments, verbal abuse, intimidation, making threats and withholding affection.
A victim of domestic violence may become unusually quiet and withdrawn, and may be exhibiting signs similar to that of depression and anxiety.
They may begin to withdraw, suddenly becoming very quiet when they are usually chatty and bubbly.
How to help: If someone you know is showing these signs, sit down with them and express your concerns.
They may be too uncomfortable to seek professional help at this stage, so having a friend they can trust is the first step in getting help.
The greatest gift you can give a person during this time is a listening ear.
2. They stop seeing friends and family
Sometimes abusers will prevent their victim from seeing their friends or family.
This can be done as a means to control them, as well as preventing their loved ones from finding out about the abuse.
How to help: If someone you know suddenly stops visiting their loved ones or continually makes excuses as to why they can’t catch up, it might be a sign of something more sinister.
Try to reach out to them with your concerns and let them know you can be a safe space for them if they need it.
3. Physical signs
Not all signs of abusive behaviour are visible, but cuts, bruises and scratches are unfortunately an undeniable sign of domestic violence.
Victims may try to cover the marks by wearing long sleeves and full covered clothing, regardless of the weather.
Some abusers hurt their victims on parts of their body that will not be visible to outsiders, so keep in mind that some injuries may not be as obvious.
How to help: If you notice a friend or colleague has suspicious looking marks that appear frequently, don’t ignore it. It might be an uncomfortable conversation to have but asking them if there is something behind the marks could save their life.
If they are unwilling to accept your help, you can point them in the direction of services and hotlines, some of which are listed at the end of this post.
Mission Australia helps people with legal needs and emergency accommodation as well as creating a safe exit plan for victims. You can learn more about these services at https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/servicedirectory/189-family-domestic-violence
4. Their children are scared
Domestic violence can have devastating effects on children that have the potential to impact their development.
They may be unable to concentrate at school, have physical marks, experience nightmares, become unusually quiet, have low self-esteem or stop displaying emotions altogether.
How to help: If you suspect someone is in an abusive relationship and they have children in the house, it is vital to act as quickly as possible.
Offer to remove the children from the household for a couple of days while the adults in the situation work on their next step.
The child may not be able, or want, to talk about the situation but make sure to let them know you will always listen when they are ready.
It may be helpful to keep a bag of toiletries, clothing, books and a few toys for the child at your home in case they need to be removed from their home quickly.
5. Their partner controls their spending
Sometimes the perpetrator can be so controlling that they dictate how the victim should or shouldn’t spend their money.
This can happen even if the victim has their own job and earns their own money.
If a friend starts making remarks such as “they won’t let me buy this” or “they won’t give me money for the train home” the alarm bells should be well and truly ringing.
How to help:
Let the victim know that this kind of control is not ok, not is it normal.
They may be unaware that it is a form of abuse and could be a slippery slope into something far more dangerous.
There are many wonderful resources out there to help victims and their families during one of the most difficult times of their life.
If you would like to help support Mission Australia, $3 from the sale of each poverty and homelessness Cause Cup goes towards the wonderful work they’re doing to ensure victims have the support they need, when they need it most.
You can find our beautiful, plastic free cups and the causes we support by visiting https://causecups.com.au/products/homelessness-poverty
In an emergency please call 000
1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
Advice for the LGBTIQ community: http://www.dvconnect.org/domestic-violence/lgbtiq/
Mission Australia service directory: https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/servicedirectory
Visit https://au.reachout.com/articles/domestic-violence-support for services specific to your state of territory.