'He kicked me with his army boots until I was unconscious'

Millions of people are experiencing abuse in Australia, according to the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2018 report. Source: Pexels

A chilling new report issued by the Australian government has shone a light on family, domestic and sexual violence in the country.

Highlighted in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2018 report, the government has suggested that such violence is a major health and welfare issue, although it impacts women more than men. In fact, one in six Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or previous partner, compared to the one in 16 men. In numbers, that means 1.6 million women and 500,000 men have experienced abuse since the age of 15.

One in five women admit to being sexually assaulted of threatened, with one in 20 men experiencing this type of abuse. In addition to impacting millions of Australians, domestic violence costs the ecnomy around $22 billion a year in healthcare, counselling and loss of work.

And it’s not just physical abuse, with one in four women experiencing emotional abuse compared to one in six men. If that wasn’t bad enough, one woman a week is killed by their current or former partner, while 12 men a year died as a result of their injuries.

Someone who knows all too well about the violence is Starts at 60 community writer and domestic violence survivor Fran Spears.

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Read more: Baby Boomer women tell of the silent epidemic of domestic violence

She explained to Starts at 60 that she experienced violence just two weeks into her first marriage. “He used to bash me and often kicked me with his boots (he was in the Army) until I was unconscious,” Fran recalled. “He once set fire to the bed while I was tied to it and held his rifle to my head.”

Fran detailed that over the course of two and a half years, her husband broke her jaw, knocked out her teeth, gave her black eyes and caused injury to her back- but feels that the era she grew up in was one in which such abuse was considered almost acceptable.

“I grew up in a society where women were supposed to stay at home and as the vows say, love, honour and obey,” she said. “We were taught that we needed to do what men wanted and if they lost their temper and hit us, we were to be silent about it and just be grateful we had a husband that took care of us. My mother’s generation were taught the same lessons.”

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While there is more help available for victims than ever before, Fran suggested that people shouldn’t judge victims who don’t immediately leave abusive relationships.

“The best way to help victims is to stop judging them,” she explained. “I believe we need to come together as women and stand up for those who can’t.  We need to let men know that it is not ok and we need to fight for tougher laws. It is never ok to abuse anyone. Abused men need the same consideration.  All men need to tell their fathers, brothers and mates it’s not ok to do this.”

Her comments are backed up by the new research which showed that women are more likely to experience violence at the hands of someone they know and for the violence to happen at home, while men are more likely to experience violence at the hands of a stranger and in a public place.

While it can be difficult, Fran encouraged anyone who is experiencing abuse to speak out. “If you are being abused, know that there is help out there,” she told Starts at 60. “Tell someone. There will be someone out there willing to help you. Make it known and get help to leave. Don’t ever give up. Keep fighting the fight because you deserve better. Remember, you are not alone.”

Such advice is vital. On average, one woman every week and one man every month is killed by a current or former partner, while children who grow up in violent homes are more likely to become the victims of domestic violence themselves as adults.

If you need help or advice on domestic violence, you can contact  1800RESPECT (1800 737 732, www.1800respect.org.au), Lifeline (13 11 14, www.lifeline.org.au), the Kids Helpline (1800 551 800, www.kidshelpline.com.au) or the Men’s Referral Service (1300 766 491, www.ntv.org.au).

Is this something you’ve ever experienced?