Tips on how to start “the conversation” and providing genuine support to victims of domestic violence.
At Frichot Lawyers we have a strong team of family lawyers who work across matters dealing with aspects of large asset pools, complex family and children issues, and situations where family or domestic violence are prevalent.
Governments are increasingly investing in measures to reduce domestic violence and emotional abuse. While we still have a long road ahead, it is important that we persist in eradicating this behaviour completely.
It is also important to note that domestic violence and emotional abuse are not isolated to one gender. With the growing community of same-sex marriages, there are new and emerging cases that must be addressed. Our previous article on Family and Domestic Violence outlines many current examples such situations.
Unfortunately, in many instances family and domestic violence matters progress to a criminal case. As a lawyer that specialises in both family and criminal law, I’m able to offer valuable insight into the many diverse situations that often arise in these areas.
What usually prevents families or friends providing actual support are common misconceptions, which include the following:
|I shouldn’t get involved in a private family matter.
|Domestic and family violence is not “just” a family problem. In some instances, it is a serious crime than can result in serious injury or death to a loved one.
|If it’s really that bad, why don’t they just leave?
|There are many reasons why victims of domestic or family violence don’t leave an abusive relationship. This can include fear, concerns regarding the impact on the children or economic and financial hardship that leaving will cause.
Sadly, many victims of family or domestic violence also minimize or justify their abusers behaviour, to the point where abusive behaviour becomes normalised within the relationship.
|If they want my help, they should just ask me; or
Why don’t they just tell someone or report it to the Police?
|Victims of family or domestic violence may not want to tell others what is going on for a number of reasons. These include shame, embarrassment or fear that what they have told you will get back to their abuser. Or that reporting violence to the Police will make matters worse.
How you can actually provide support to people– tips on starting a conversation and providing genuine support
If you suspect a family member or friend is in an abusive relationship, if can be difficult to know what to say and how to start a conversation. If you are concerned about a friend or family member that is in an abusive relationship, here are some tips on how to start “the conversation.”
|Start a conversation – on a positive note
|Respectfully voice your concerns regarding their partner’s unhealthy behaviours and why it’s a concern
|Listen – be respectful and supportive
Be patient – and stay in contact with your friends or loved ones
Once you have that first conversation with your friend or loved one, bear in mind it is unlikely they will “just end the relationship and leave.” Your friend or loved one may also deny their partner’s behaviour and shy away from you. Realistically, it may take several conversations for your friend or loved one to first of all, acknowledge they are in an abusive relationship and then seek help. Be patient and let your friend or loved one know you are there to support them. And expect more conversations to follow in the future.
Providing additional support and encouragement
Once your friend or loved one starts talking to your more about their relationship, you can then start to encourage them to:
|Obtain some privacy.
|Sometimes it’s extremely difficult for those in an abusive relationship to safely communicate to others or call for help. Perpetrators of domestic violence may take their partner’s mobile phone or hack into their social media accounts and take control. Perpetrators of domestic and family violence may also install spyware on electronic devices to monitor the movements of their partners.
That’s why you may want to encourage your friend or loved one to:
|Make a safety plan or an escape plan
|Safety planning is a process of looking at a situation and seeing what that person needs in place, to help them and their children feel safer in a violent situation. This may include creating a “signal word” with children in the house so they can identify potential danger, or even having an emergency bag ready to go.
Click here to see the Safety Planning booklet created by Dawn House incorporated for some ideas on creating a safety plan for your friend or loved one:
|Seek professional help
|Your friend or loved one should also seek professional support. This includes seeing their local GP, obtaining counselling or if required, relocating to a refuge should they need to.
The Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline provides support and counselling for women experiencing family and domestic violence (including referrals to women’s refuges). Phone: (08) 9223 1188 or free call 1800 007 339.
|Seek legal advice
|What prevents victims from leaving an abusive relationship is not knowing what their legal rights and entitlements are regarding parenting, property and financial matters after separating.
Victims of family and domestic violence may also require assistance in obtaining a Family Violence Restraining Order against their partner.
If your friend or loved one requires legal assistance, help them by taking them to see a lawyer.
If you or your friend or loved one are thinking about obtaining a Family Violence Restraining Order, there are a few things you may need to know. See our other article regarding obtaining a Family Violence Restraining Order.
This article was written by Mila Mortimer,
Senior Associate and Specialist in both Family and Criminal Law