Just being able to decide what you and your children eat for dinner can be a luxury for victims who flee family violence.
It’s the simple things we take for granted every day, says the CEO of Domestic Violence NSW, Moo Baulch.
“Being able to decide what you can buy in the supermarket or what clothes to wear … really small things you may not have been able to do for years,” she says.
The tragic events of July 5, 2018 where a Sydney father shot dead his two teenage children have highlighted several areas of concern for the peak representative body for domestic and family violence services.
Ms Baulch says some of the reporting has been “less than sensitive” and it is not appropriate to sensationalise or trivialise discussions of domestic violence.
Given one in three women experience physical violence in their lifetime and one in four children are exposed to domestic violence, she says it is vital the community understands the complexities of the issue.
Domestic violence is not just a one-off incident.
And, in fact, there may never be actual physical violence.
It can be emotional, psychological, financial, sexual or other types of behaviour.
It's not a problem we can police our way out of ... first responders are at the bottom of the cliff once the crisis has occurred.Moo Baulch
“It’s an abuse of power and control – it’s limiting a person’s access to being able to meet their full potential,” Ms Baulch explains.
“It can start with put-downs, gaslighting, financial control or even stopping someone from having a job or accessing education.
“The abuse might include things that are hard for an outside person to spot.”
Technology-associated abuse is a growing area of concern with social media and new apps that track a person’s movements or who they interact with extending the reach of perpetrators.
“Refuge workers often give women a new phone when they arrive,” Ms Baulch says.
“In some cases we’ve seen GPS tracking devices attached to women and children without their knowledge – even in toys.”
A real shift in community attitudes towards violence against women is needed to stop family violence, Ms Baulch says.
There needs to be a zero tolerance approach to things like inappropriate jokes and sexist behaviour from the outset.
“It’s not a problem we can police our way out of … first responders are at the bottom of the cliff once the crisis has occurred,” she says.
“It starts with conversations with our kids from an early age about what respect looks like in a family.”
Schools also have a key role to play in education and as part of that broader conversation about bullying, according to Ms Baulch.
“We need to shift attitudes over the next generation,” she says.
“It has to be more than just an event once a year on White Ribbon Day.”
- If you or someone you know needs help, call 1800 RESPECT, the Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491 or Kid’s Helpline 1800 55 1800.
Protection is everyone’s job
A collaborative effort to protect families under “significant threat of harm” from domestic violence in the Albury area is safeguarding lives, according to key stakeholders.
Betty’s Place program manager Danielle Thompson said fortnightly Safety Action Meetings (SAMs) between service providers had resulted in timely assistance for victims and their children.
“It has made a big difference,” she said.
“We have had great interventions that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.
“The SAMs are designed to link all stakeholders and services so that there is action within set timeframes, usually days.
“We carry the responsibility together to make services work to protect vulnerable people in our communities.”
YES Unlimited became the official host of the mandated meetings, which form a key component of state government’s domestic and family violence reforms.
The Safer Pathway program, enacted to strengthen and unite the response to domestic violence in NSW, was rolled out in Albury in September 2017.
The SAMs have strengthened the vital relationships with Albury Police, according to YES Unlimited’s Jon Park.
“Police are often the first contact in family violence; they can now alert the meeting to high-risk scenarios,” Mr Park said.
“We have standardised risk assessment and screening tools, which means we are all talking the same language.”