This was a super great and informative discussion guys! Here's what we learned today:
We all want our family to be a super great and supportive place in our lives, where we feel safe in being our true selves. Sometimes it doesn’t work out like that, though. In our Australian society, it’s thought that 1 in 4 children witness family violence in the home, while 1 in 3 young people with a partner experience violence and abuse in that relationship (stats sourced here). Because of these figures, it’s really important that we talk about what it means to experience family violence, but also how to help ourselves and others who find themselves affected by it.
Firstly, how do you decide what is okay and what is not okay behaviour in your family? Basically, it comes down to behavior that makes you feel unsafe, disrespected, ignored and/or upset. It can be perpetrated in many different ways, or it could be an absence of behavior that makes you feel safe and happy. It might not be intentional, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t abusive
It might seem like there are so many ways to go wrong when interacting with your family. So how do you make sure that the way you are acting towards other people makes them feel safe? In this case, listening is really important. Find out what they have to say about your behavior, but also pay attention to their body language. Also consider – would you want to be treated in the way that you treat your family members?
Now that we know what abusive behavior is – and how not to perpetrate it – what should we do if we are experiencing family violence? If you are in immediate danger, call the police – in those times, your safety should always come first. You can also confide in a trusted friend or family member, teacher or other person in your life. Then there are always services that you can go to if you are experiencing family or domestic violence:
It’s important to get help as soon as you can, since the effects of family violence can be intense. Self-esteem issues and re-victimisation in other relationships are some examples, but you can work through those feelings when you start getting help and support.
How does the media handle discussion of family violence? Well, probably the most obvious feature is the man being depicted as the perpetrator, especially of physical violence, and usually towards his female partner and children. This is accurate to some extent: men are most likely to be the perpetrator of violence and even lethal acts of domestic violence towards women, and intimate partner violence is the top risk factor for death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15-44 (stats sourced from www.dvrcv.org.au).
However, this isn’t the entire picture, and often the media’s depiction of violence is gendered, with men always committing violent acts and women always being the victims. It’s important to remember that family violence is not always physical, and women are as capable of being domestic abusers as men. Also, children are also likely to become victims of family violence, and even when they aren’t, can be affected by domestic violence between partners.
Now that we know what family violence is, and where we can get support for it – how do we ask someone else that we might be worried about? It helps to be straightforward with your question, and show that you will do your best to be a support to them. Even if they’re not super keen on telling you right away, just make sure they know that they can come to you for support – they could take you up on it later, and it could even be a lifesaver for them.
Family violence can be devastating and painful to experience, but the more we talk about it and spread information and resources around, the more people we can help out. For tonight’s Infobus, we were joined by the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault (SECASA). Here are some more resources from them, if you’d like to know more about them or just have their details in mind: