It’s time to rethink our attitude to victims of domestic violence 93



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A landmark study into Australian’s attitudes to domestic violence has revealed that, even though many of us have the best intentions, the vast majority don’t understand the fundamental reasons women continue to experience abuse.

The VicHealth study of 17,000 Australians found that 80 per cent of those questioned said they didn’t understand why women stayed with men who abused them. Why didn’t they just leave? If she really loved her kids, she’d get up the guts to protect them by walking out, right?


Despite the fact most of us think that, at some level, women choose stay with abusive husbands or partners, the fact is many don’t realise they have any other choice – or that they are being “abused” at all.

As one witness for the Royal Commission into Family Violence shared her story on Monday, it became clear that when you’re inside an abusive relationship it can be impossible to see beyond its confines.

The witness told the commission she had no idea her husband wasn’t allowed to rape her until a doctor saw her injuries. When she finally plucked up the courage to phone the police, her husband laughed with them at the front door; and then they left.

Once she left him, she and her kids spent months sleeping in her car because they couldn’t get onto the emergency housing list. Why not? Because to register, you need an address. But if you have an address, then you have somewhere to go.

Stories like this reveal how the broken system works against victims of abuse and, hopefully, the Royal Commission will fix that. But before we can even get someone into the system, we need to consider our own attitudes. We need to ask ourselves, are we willing to be defenders of the vulnerable?

A NSW Family & Community Services fact sheet on abuse says, “You don’t need to be sure that someone is being abused in order to make a report – you need only to suspect that they may be “at risk of harm”, ie, at risk of future abuse or neglect. This could mean that they are exposed to domestic violence, or their physical, psychological or medical needs are not being met.”

Are we willing to see victims of abuse as people who feel they don’t have any choices and possibly even step in show them otherwise?

Have you ever suspected someone is being abused? What would you do if you did? Would you step in to help in some way? 


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  1. It is time our laws were updated, they are a disgrace & the appeals & sentencing are insulting to the victims & the wider community, particularly crimes against children.

  2. I don’t think you can step in as they don’t see a problem. You could however, maybe discuss options. The police have no powers in some situations & this puts people off contacting them.

    1 REPLY
    • I hope you don’t mean the victim can’t see the problem because that would be a ludicrous suggestion.

  3. Yes I did know someone that was being abused and I did step in to help her flee from the bastard. But a neighbour I thought was being abused always had an excuse for her injuries and then they moved to god knows where.

  4. Please qualify ‘step in’. DON’T under any circumstances physically get involved in domestic violence. Ask any police officer they will tell you they can be the most volatile and dangerous calls to attend.

  5. I don’t think our police should have to attend domestic violence cases- why should they risk their lives?

    4 REPLY
    • Who do you suggest should help those that are being abused or do you let it happen until it ends up killing someone…? (By the way 2 women die every week from domestic violence}

    • And it is part of what they signed on for when they joined the force. I personally know 2 police officers who joined the force because they had to suffer seeing their mothers abused when they were children and wanted to help other victims of DV. There was not the help there is today – they grew up in the 50s & 60s – and the both wanted to be part of driving change in both availability of assistance and community attitudes

    • Take the domestic away and it is just violence towards women! Of course the police has to attend and arrest it is their JOB!

    • I don’t believe this. Back in 1997 I finally had the courage to defend myself. Oh yeah I use to belt him back. I had to learn to fight him much to his suprise. So t police were called n they took action. Yes I knew every cop at t local staTion had been at my house. They gave him an order that he was never to return to the house where he lived w me n his kid. He never came back. I had to watch my back cos he was vicious. I moved house soon after. I still bear the physical scars of his beatings. He was a control freak.

  6. Most people don’t want to know, don’t want to get involved, don’t want to believe someone they know would behave like that, it is a very lonely place.

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