• Domestic Violence

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Find support for family and domestic violence

Find support for family and domestic violence

Domestic violence (also known as family violence or domestic abuse) is an issue that affects families and individuals across many walks of life. It encompasses a range of harmful behaviours that occur when someone uses violence or manipulation to maintain power and control over someone they are close to. This can involve physical aggression, physical harm (including sexual), intimidation, threats, insults, manipulation, or a combination of one or more of these actions.

Domestic abuse can involve a current partner or ex-partner, a parent, carer or guardian, a family member (in the same household or extended), or anyone who is in close contact with another person. Regardless of their background, sex, sexual preference, culture, socio-economic background or gender, anyone can find themselves in an abusive relationship.

Identifying domestic abuse


Physical abuse

Direct injury or assault to another person’s body, such as strangulation, punching, kicking, pushing, pinching, slapping, or shaking. It could also involve the use of weapons or objects, denial of food or medication, violence against children or animals, or destruction of property.

Verbal abuse

This can involve verbal attacks, threats, insults, intimidation, humiliation, yelling and can cover themes such as body or appearance, sexuality or gender identity, their parenting, intelligence or other capabilities.

Emotional abuse

Treating the person as less than, not allowing them to have any input or say, emotional blackmail, threats of suicide or self-harm (to coerce or force compliance or action), stalking, spying, blaming, ignoring, sulking or tracking.

Coercion

Forcing or pressuring someone to engage in activities or actions against their will. This can involve manipulating, hurting, scaring, or isolating the person in order to coerce them into a behaviour or action.

Control

Behaviours that are focused on controlling or monitoring the other persons activities and interactions with others. This can include controlling diet, medication, who they can see, reading messages, checking search history or bank statements.

Isolation

Efforts are made to isolate the individuals from their family and friends, effectively cutting off their support network. This could also include forcing them to move away from family and friends, or outward rudeness to family to alienate them.

Financial exploitation

This might include controlling access to finances, preventing the person from working or being able to accrue resources of their own, or withholding money.

Spiritual abuse

Forcing someone to participate in religious or spiritual practices they don’t believe in, ridiculing their culture/beliefs, or preventing them from being involved with religious, cultural or spiritual groups.

Sexual

Unwanted sexual activity, threats or insults relating to sex or the person’s body, humiliation or forced engagement in degrading acts, restricting or forcing use of contraception, using intimate photos as coercion.

Do you feel safe?

Do you feel safe?

In the beginning of a relationship or when abuse first commences, you might not be fully aware that either you or a loved one is experiencing domestic abuse if it's subtle (coercive, manipulative, psychological, verbal or emotional in nature). Abuse can ebb and flow through periods of stability (when it does not happen or doesn't escalate), or it can increase slowly over time (both in frequency but also severity). 

This can make it difficult to identify patterns and to know with certainty that abuse is occurring, which can make it hard to offer, or seek support. 

While it's normal to have ups and downs and disagreements in any relationship, abuse is when certain behaviours or patterns of behaviour are repeated, and when you no longer feel safe and supported in your relationship. It's important to trust your gut instinct or pay attention if you feel unsafe in any relationship or have concerns about a loved one.

Find support, any time


Psychologists play a crucial role in supporting individuals who have previously been, or are currently affected by domestic violence and abuse. They can provide assessment, intervention, and therapy which is tailored to the unique needs of the individual they are working with, and many psychologists have specific experience and skills in working with trauma, family and domestic violence, sexual assault or working with children on the same topics.

Trauma informed therapy

Understand how domestic violence trauma has impacted a persons life, and how they have coped with and managed trauma. It integrates and considers the effects of trauma on all elements of therapy and focusses on building trust, being collaborative and empowering to build a sense of safety – which in turn promotes recovery and healing.

Safety Planning

Develop personalised plans to enhance safety, reduce the risk of harm, and improve your wellbeing. Safety planning may include identifying safe people and locations, creating a “run” bag full of essential items needed to start again, access or explore emergency resources, and develop coping strategies for managing crisis or risk situations.

Therapy techniques

CBT, mindfulness based interventions, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) are techniques used to support people who have experienced domestic violence. Psychologists can also help process experiences, provide education, promote resilience, and develop coping strategies to help heal emotional wounds associated with trauma and abuse.

Available psychologists who can help with family and domestic violence


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What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviours that allows one person in the relationship to gain power and coercive control over the other person. The behaviour can involve various forms or harm, threat or violence, including; psychological, physical, sexual, emotional, and financial. Because domestic abuse can manifest in a number of ways, the signs aren’t always clear or immediately apparent. Some common signs to look out for might include:

  • Injuries – you may see unexplained injuries or someone who is seemingly accident prone – bruises, cuts, burns, scratches, broken bones or other injuries that the other person cannot or will not explain. In addition, they might wear clothes, accessories or make-up to cover up and you might notice that their attire is not suited to the weather or situation.
  • Loss of confidence and self-esteem - The person might seem more withdrawn or quieter than usual.
  • Isolation – they may have reduced or totally cut off contact from family, friends and support network.
  • Fear - They (or their children) seem afraid or their partner or the other person in the relationship if not an intimate partner.
  • Shared anecdotes - They may talk about their partners behaviour in concerning ways, including talking about their jealousy, bad temper, intrusion, lack of trust.
  • Controlling - Public situations where their partner is witnessed being critical of them, humiliating them, controlling or ordering them about or not allowing them to make decisions or have input.
  • Distress – the person impacted by violence is likely to exhibit emotional distress, or show signs of depression, anxiety, stress or fear. They might also experience low self-esteem, shame, guilt or feelings of worthlessness.

How do I know when to ask for support?

Recognising the signs of domestic violence, when (and how) to reach out for support is critical in breaking the cycle of abuse. Some signs to look out for that might prompt you to reach out for support could include:

  • Feeling unsafe or scared within your relationship
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Noticing decreased self esteem and sense of self worth
  • Becoming isolated from family and friends
  • If you are walking on eggshells with this person – and either changing your behaviour, avoiding things or staying quiet so you don’t trigger them
  • Noticing thoughts that maybe you “deserve” the abuse (please know that nobody deserves to be hurt or blamed for someone else’s behaviour)
  • Emotional distress – including experiencing depression, or other mental health concerns as a result of domestic violence
  • Noticing patterns in your relationship – where you notice and experience conflict, manipulation, control or abuse are occurring
  • If you are asking for a sign to justify asking for support. Anyone can ask for help, at any time. There's no such thing as a relationship needing to be a certain level of "bad enough" to seek support.

My partner is not abusive but I'm worried about my situation

Many people ask, “Is this domestic violence?” when thinking about the behaviour or actions of someone they are in a relationship with. Although it is important to identify and call out domestic violence, its even more important for people to know that they do not have to accept or tolerate any patterns of behaviour that make them feel unsafe or disrespected - even if they don’t meet typical criteria of what could be considered domestic violence. Any behaviour that is not acceptable should be addressed, and its important to consider the following points:

  • Have clear boundaries about what you will and will not accept, including any consequences or outcomes if those boundaries are violated. The other person might not understand them or agree with them, but they need to respect and adhere to them.
  • Communicate with loved ones – there is a lot of shame and stigma associated with domestic violence and it can keep people quiet, but this is a risk factor associated with domestic violence. When people become isolated it gives more power to the perpetrator. So ensure that you talk to loved ones about your concerns and let them know what is really happening. 
  • Professional supports - If you don’t feel comfortable with the above point, or don’t have any trusted people close to you, ensure you reach out to trusted professionals who are trained, skilled and can provide support and resources and who can also keep your information confidential.

Please note, that if you felt scared or worried about retaliation or what might happen if you did address the behaviours of the person you are in a relationship with, it could be an indicator of domestic violence. Your safety is important, so also consider some of the other points associated with safety planning or accessing supports if this feeling was triggered in you when considering this topic. 

How can I find support?

It is important to seek support immediately if you have experienced harm or are in current danger (call 000). Or if you think you or a loved one are in an abusive relationship you need to protect yourself and take action as soon as possible. 

It's important to note that supports are unique to each individual and each relationship, and in some circumstances, leaving or taking certain types of action can increase risk – so its important for you to understand that not everyone wants to leave a relationship, and even if they do it is not always easy or straightforward. But some options to consider if you are thinking about leaving, or just want to access supports could include:

  • Call the police and consider your legal avenues (protection orders such as AVO, VRO)
  • Talk to someone you trust
  • Develop a safety plan
    • You might do this with a trusted family member or friend, or you could call a support service (some options included below) that specialises in family and domestic violence and seek help to create a safety plan
  • Put steps in place for financial help to ensure you can establish yourself in a new home or so you can leave and be independent
  • Consider support and recovery – experiencing family and domestic abuse can result in mental health concerns and a significant impact on your wellbeing so consider reaching out to a trusted friend, family member, or medical professional

Taking that first step to seek support, or explore your options can be a daunting, but there are a number of resources available to those who need help. Some steps or services to consider could include:

  • Helplines – there is a list below (not exhaustive) of resources available within Australia who offer 24/7 hotlines which are staffed by trained professionals who can support with safety planning, information, crisis intervention and referrals to local support/services/resources
  • Legal support and assistance – you might want to consider contacting legal aid, or lawyer or organisation who can help you understand your legal rights (including financial, property, safety or seeking protection) and can help you navigate the legal processes
  • Community supports – in many communities there are resources or services for people experiencing domestic violence – including shelters, counselling, advocate and support or crisis interventions. You could do some research to see what services are in your local area (or use the Daisy App – more information below)
  • Support groups – it may help to join a support group for people who have experienced domestic violence. It can help to experience solidarity and empathy from people who have had similar experiences, can share resources and offer a sense of community and connection

Domestic violence can impact on an individual’s physical health as well as emotional and psychological wellbeing. You may consider seeking support from a psychologist, or counsellor who has specific experience and skills in working with trauma, family and domestic violence, sexual assault or working with children on the same topics.

Domestic violence resources

If you're in a life-threatening or urgent situation, phone Triple Zero (000) and ask for the police.

For non-urgent police attendance phone 131 444.

1800RESPECT

Lifeline

  • Is a 24/7 service you can call from anywhere in Australia if you are experiencing a personal crisis or have suicidal thoughts. 131 114. You can also send a text message or contact their confidential online chat.

The Daisy App

The Daisy app was developed by 1800RESPECT

  • Daisy is an app that allows you to search for information about support services in your area
  • It is free to use and download
  • Daisy includes safety features to help protect the privacy of people who use it, including being able to search and view web pages through the app which means the webpages wont appear on website/internet browsing history

Men

Teens and Children

LGBTIQA+

  • QLife provides services that are free - phone 1800 184 527 or webchat counselling service for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people, families and friends from 3:00 pm to midnight.

Pets

Domestic abuse in the LGBTQIA+ community

Discrimination occurring for those in the LGBTIQA+ community can increase their risk of experiencing family and domestic abuse, in comparison to other groups in the population. In addition, lack of understanding, shame or stigma can create barriers to accessing support. There are also distinct types of violence which can be experienced including:

  • Stopping someone from accessing gender affirming care – including medication, medical procedures, therapy or other care. 
  • Forced conversation therapy participation.
  • Forced body modifications.
  • Pressure or threats to make someone conform to gender norms they don’t align with.
  • Threats to “out” someone’s gender or sexual identity.
  • Threats to expose intersex status.
  • Threats to expose HIV status.
  • Isolating or cutting someone out of the family or relationship due to gender or sexual identity.
  • Body shaming, or name calling specific to gender, sexuality or intersex status.

What clients say about My Mirror


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03 May 2023

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18 January 2024

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If you are feeling suicidal or are in crisis call 000 (AU) or use these resources to get immediate help.