Women's DV Line 1800 811 811
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence occurs when one person in an intimate relationship behaves in a way that causes fear or harm to the other person. It is the use of fear and power to control another person’s physical, emotional, social, sexual and/or spiritual being.
Domestic Violence is more than a conflict or argumenta where both people feel they can freely express themselves, rather it occurs where one person is using their power over the person.
Domestic Violence occurs within married and defacto relationships, intimate personal relationships, between family members and in informal care relationships.
Domestic Violence occurs with relationships between men and women and in same-sex relationships.
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people prefer the term ‘Family Violence’ as it encompasses all forms of violence in intimate, family and other relationships of mutual obligation and support.
Domestic and Family Violence does occur with male victims of female abusers but statistically most victims are women.
Types of abuse include:
- physical abuse which is the use of any physical force to control or injure a person, including pushing, kicking, slapping (or threats to do so) damage to property, use of weapons etc
- sexual abuse which is any unwanted sexual contact, including constant accusations of infidelity, the expectation that a woman will be sexually available whenever the abuser wants, rape, unwanted touching/sexual contact etc
- financial abuse may include taking control of financial matters, preventing access to money, refusing money (for rent, children’s activities, health needs etc.), adjusting Centrelink benefits etc
- emotional and Psychological Abuse is the most common type of abuse. It intends to destroy a person’s self-esteem and results in a person feeling humiliated, unworthy, guilty and degraded. It may include constant put-downs, offensive language, threats to commit suicide if the relationship ends, telling a person they are the primary cause of the relationship problems etc
- social Abuse intends to isolate a person from their supports, including jeopardising or destroying relationships with family and friends, constantly checking up on whereabouts, moving town or house to isolate etc
- stalking is when a partner or ex-partner follows or repeatedly makes contact with the person; even when it's been made clear the relationship is over.
Domestic Violence affects the entire community and it occurs in all areas of society, regardless of location, socio-economic status, age, ethnic background and religious belief.
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What are Women's Refuges?
Refuges (sometimes called shelters or safe houses) provide safe and secure accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence in their homes or community.
In order to maintain security and safety, the location and details of refuges are confidential and not available to the public. Placement in a refuge can only occur by contacting the dvconnect womensline (1800 811 811).
Refuge staff specialise in supporting women and children during this difficult time and can offer accommodation referral services, advocacy, emotional support, budgeting advice, support with legal matters and other support services.
Most refuges receive funding by the Government and are operated by dedicated professional women through a variety of church and community based organisations.
How long can I stay at the refuge?
As long as you need to. Some women only stay for a few days, and others stay several months.
Some women stay in refuges for a break from the violence, to provide time and space to think away from the abuse.
Some women use their stay in refuge to plan for the next part of their life and arrange longer-term, safe accommodation in order to start a ‘new life’.
Some women decide to return home to try again.
Should you want it, there is support available at the refuge but no-one will make you do anything you don't want to do.
What are refuges like?
There are different styles of refuges. Some provide a self-contained family unit with your own small kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, while others offer a more communal style house where you will have your own room for yourself and your children and other areas will be shared by the other women and children staying there.
Many women form supportive friendships with the other women in refuge, but some people prefer to keep to themselves.
Refuges have their own codes of conduct regarding the day-to-day running of the house which will usually cover things like bedtimes for children, incoming telephone calls, cleaning and laundry.
Refuges will not allow women to stay if they have any problems with abusing drugs or alcohol.
How do I arrange refuge accommodation?
You can call dvconnect womensline (1800 811 811) anytime of the day or night to get help. The counsellors will need to speak with you personally and will ask you details about your current situation.
The questions may seem quite personal but it is important you are honest with the counsellor so she can support you in the best way and ensure your safety.
Counsellors are not able to book accommodation in advance for you, or guarantee that there will be space in the location of your choice. Counsellors work on the principle of getting women to the nearest safe refuge available. Refuges places are in high demand, and spaces offered will be determined by vacancies currently available. Counsellors will never place you in areas that are unsafe or where you will be at further risk of abuse (e.g. near where your partner lives, works, socialises) – they will ensure you are away from any potential risks to your safety.
If refuges are full, we also can arrange emergency accommodation for you until a refuge becomes available.
Your counsellor will also assist you in travelling safely to the refuge.
Please remember -- It is very important that you keep all information about this process confidential, not just for you, but for all women and children in the refuge.
What can I take with me to the refuge?
As a guide, and if it safe to do so, please bring to the refuge:
- Centrelink details
- birth Certificates for you and your children
- school and medical records, including the telephone numbers of the school and your GP or surgery
- money, bankbooks, cheque book and credit cards
- keys - house, car, office
- drivers license and car registration documents
- any medication or prescriptions
- passports, visas and work permits
- mortgage details or rental agreements
- current unpaid bills
- insurance documents
- address book
- family photographs, your diary, jewellery, small items of sentimental value
- your children's favourite items of clothing and small toys or books
- toiletries and clothes for you and your children
If you have to get to refuge in an emergency and do not have your basic belongings with you, the police may be able to do a`retrieval' of your belongings the following day, in conjunction with your refuge worker. Speak to a dvconnect womensline counsellor or refuge worker if this is required.
What can't I take to a refuge?
You will not be able to take large items such as furniture with you to the refuge.
Also, refuges cannot house pets; however dvconnect, in collaboration with RSPCA QLD has established a pet foster care program in Queensland. Please talk to your dvconnect counsellor if this could help you.
What do I do about money and rent?
Most refuges require a weekly contribution to cover their costs. This amount varies from refuge to refuge but usually it is a percentage of your weekly income.
You may need to contact Centrelink to change your details. You may be entitled to an Emergency Payment (which you do not have to repay). This is payable if you have had to leave your home due to domestic violence to assist with the cost of re-establishing your home. Speak to your refuge worker about this.
If you are in full or part-time employment, but need to go into refuge as a result of domestic violence, consider discussing your situation (in confidence) with your manager or supervisor. You may be able to arrange some time off work which could be allocated as annual or sick leave.
If you leave full or part-time employment in order to relocate and move into refuge accommodation, your rights to Centrelink benefit may be affected. You will need to discuss this with a refuge worker as soon as you move into the refuge.
What about my permanent housing situation?
You can return home from the refuge at any point. You may decide you want to re-establish yourself elsewhere. The choice is yours, and refuge workers will help you to decide what you want to do. They will also tell you how to get advice regarding joint property and mortgage agreements.
Do not agree to sign any documents relating to the tenancy or ownership of your home until you have received legal advice.
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What are Protection Orders? And how can the Law protect me?
A Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) is an order made by a court prohibiting violent behaviour by an abusive person. You can also apply for extra conditions on the Order that may further increase your safety, for example that the person who is abusing you be prohibited from coming to your residence or workplace.
Breaching a Protection Order is a criminal offence and should be reported to the Police. Application forms for Protection Orders are available at all magistrate courts.
Physical and sexual assault are criminal offences. Stalking is also a crime.
For further information please contact a Domestic Violence counsellor, a Police Domestic Violence Liaison Officer, and/or seek legal advice.
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Planning for Safety
It’s very important to have in mind a plan for how to ensure you and your children’s safety, whether you are planning to stay in the relationship, are thinking about leaving or have left for good. No-one knows your situation as well as you do, so think carefully about how to keep you and your children safe.
If you are staying in the relationship, think about what you can do to keep yourself safe, particularly at times when your partner becomes abusive. Some tips may be:
- creating signals for neighbours/family/friends that let them know to come over or to call for help. For example switch on the outside light; phone a friend, saying "I can't visit on Wednesday" as a code.
- keeping spare keys and important documents where you can get to them readily.
- keeping in mind their age and their skills, develop safety plans for the children, for example, calling 000 for help or getting to a place where they will be safer.
- do whatever it is you need to do to buy time and/or space, to defuse the situation or to protect yourself and your children.
- consider applying for a Protection Order to legally prevent any abuse.
- phone dvconnect womensline (24hours a day, 7 days a week) for information, counselling and support. If you decide to phone for help, make sure you phone another number immediately afterwards to avoid your partner using the ‘last-number redial’ facility.
- similarly, if searching domestic violence services on the Internet, be mindful of online security measures.
- buy a mobile phone and save emergency numbers.
- protect children from things they don’t need to hear or see or might feel overwhelmed by.
- save small amounts of your own money; open your own bank account, get your own credit card.
When you make the decision to leave, consider your safety by:
- changing your mailing address to a post office box.
- changing your vehicle registration and driver’s license to list your new postal address.
- changing your phone number, getting a private number and carefully restricting who you give it to.
- if you can afford it or negotiate with your landlord for it, consider installing motion sensitive lighting, timed and security systems.
- getting a dog for security.
- as much as you can, vary your routines and places you visit – e.g. join a new congregation, shop at different shops, visit different restaurants, change banks, go to a different gym, find a new hairdresser.
- change the route you take to get to school or work. Get a different bus or train or get off one stop earlier.
Any person who has lived with domestic or family violence needs to take special care of their emotional well-being, as well as their physical safety. Ways to do this include:
- Finding positive supports – friends, family etc – who will affirm your self-worth and ability to cope with the abuse.
- getting involved with support groups for surviviors of domestic violence, or see a counsellor individually.
- being aware of your own “triggers” – don’t let your abuser provoke you through fear or anger into a more dangerous situation.
- learning how to care for yourself and reduce your stress in healthy ways.
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Children and Young People
If you are a young person concerned about violence in your home or community, we encourage you to talk with a counsellor at Kid's Help Line or check out some useful websites made especially for young people.
The effects of domestic and family violence on children and young people are very serious and the effects can last a lifetime.
Children and young people living with violence are often directly involved in the abusive situation either through witnessing the abuse, being abused themselves or suffering as a result of parental stress and frustration.
Many children who witness domestic violence have been found to have higher levels of behavioural and emotional problems than other children. The impact varies according to their age, sex, and role in the family.
It is vital that children know that the abuse isn’t their fault, that they are loved and cared for and that it’s okay to talk about how they are feeling or thinking.
The effects of domestic violence on children may include:
- feelings of fear, anger, depression, shame, confusion and distrust
- a sense of powerlessness and vulnerability
- bullying peers, or being a victim of bullying
- physical reactions such as stomach cramps, bed-wetting,headaches, sleeping and eating difficulties, frequent illness
- slowed developmental capacities such as poor school performance and suspension and/or expulsion
- low self-esteem and difficulty relating to peers
- drug and alcohol abuse
- behavioural problems such as running away from home, aggressive language and behaviour, acting out
- a belief that violence is a legitimate means for resolving conflict in relationships, or for obtaining control of a situation.
If you are concerned about your child/ren, talk with a counsellor at dvconnect womensline or another support person who can assist you and your family.
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