Frequently Asked Questions
What is domestic and family violence?
Domestic and family violence is when someone intentionally uses violence, threats, force or intimidation to control or manipulate a partner, former partner or family member.
It’s not just being hurt physically. There are many different types of violence including physical, verbal, emotional, financial, sexual and psychological abuse.
The violence is intentional and systematic and often increases in frequency and severity the longer the relationship goes on. It is about power and control and it is intended to cause fear. It does not have to occur within the home or between people who are living together.
Who does it affect?
Domestic and family violence does not discriminate. It happens across all ages, genders, and cultural, ethnic, religious and socio-economic groups.
How common is it?
Australia wide, 17% of women (1.6 million) and 6.1% of men (703,700) have experienced domestic and family violence since the age of 15; and 16% of girls (1.5 million) and 11% of boys (991,600) have experienced abuse before the age of 15. (source: ABS Safety Report 2016)
Every year in Australia there are around 129 homicides from domestic and family violence. Intimate partners represent the majority of victims (56%), followed by children (21%), parents (12%), siblings (3%), and other family members (8%). (source: Australian Institute of Criminology)
While domestic and family violence occurs across all ages and genders, it is most commonly carried out by men against women who are their current or former partners. In Australia:
• More than one woman is killed every week on average by a partner or former partner.
• Domestic and family violence results in one woman being hospitalised every 3 hours.
• Women are nearly three times more likely to experience partner violence than men.
• Women are 8 times more likely to experience sexual violence by a partner than men.
What are some signs of domestic and family violence?
There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The person subjected to violence might feel they have done something wrong, or something to cause the violence or abuse. This is not true. Violence and abuse is never ok. It is not the victim’s fault. And it is against the law.
The abused person might:
• blame them self for the violence
• feel like they’re walking on egg shells
• jump at every little sound
• feel like they’re waiting for an explosion
• feel they have to ask permission to do anything or spend money
• feel they are threatening their family’s social standing and reputation
• take drugs or alcohol to cope.
If you are worried you, or someone close to you, is being abused we encourage you to call our 24/7 crisis telephone line 02 6280 0900 — we are here 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year to listen and provide support and guidance.
What causes it?
Domestic and family violence may start when one person feels the need to control and dominate another. The need to control and dominate may be because of low self-esteem, extreme jealousy, anger management issues or feeling inferior to their partner.
The clearest and most consistent pattern in domestic violence is gender. In Australia, 17% of women have experienced partner violence compared to 6.1% of men. (source: ABS Safety Report 2016). Women are also far more likely to use violence against men in self-defence.
Seventy-five percent of women who have used violence against intimate male partners say they only ever did so in self-defence, and more than half of their partners agreed with this. Only 8% of males who used violence against their female partners claimed it was in self-defence. (source: St Vincent de Paul Report 2015)
Being drunk or drug affected is not an excuse for domestic violence. A common misconception is that alcohol and/or drugs cause violent behaviour. However, the majority of people who are drunk or use drugs do not abuse their partners. Being drunk or “unable to remember” does not remove responsibility—just like it doesn’t take away responsibility when someone has an accident while driving under the influence.
Regardless of the cause, it is important to remember that there is no excuse for domestic and family violence. It is never ok. It is never the fault of the victim. It is against the law.
What are the impacts on adults?
Domestic and family violence has a significant impact on the short and long-term health and well-being of people subjected to abuse—in Australia domestic and family violence results in one woman being hospitalised every 3 hours.
The psychological consequences of violence can be as serious as the physical effects, and can include eating disorders, insomnia, generalized chronic pain, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Many victims of domestic and family violence find it difficult to function in their daily lives. Absences from work, due to injuries or visits to the doctor, can result in job loss, making them less able to leave their abusive situations. They may feel ashamed, see themselves as unworthy of love, and suffer from low self-esteem. Because of their feelings of low self-worth, they may withdraw from social activities and become isolated from friends and family.
At DVCS our mission is to reduce violence and abuse in relationships by providing services to break the domestic and family violence cycle and support recovery and well-being.
If you, or someone close to you, is subject to domestic and family violence we encourage you to call our 24/7 crisis telephone line 02 6280 0900 — we are here 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year to listen and provide support and guidance.
What are the impacts on children and young people?
Children and young people from birth through to adolescence are significantly impacted when they experience or witness domestic and family violence. It effects their sense of safety, self-esteem, their feelings, beliefs about the world and their relationships with others. It effects physical and emotional health, as well as potentially leading to numerous ongoing impacts later in life.
We now understand that exposure to domestic and family violence is a traumatic experience for children and shapes the way their brains develop. Children can continue to operate as if the stress and threat were continuing; even when the violence is not present and they are in environments where there is no real threat to their safety.
Just like adults, children can experience and demonstrate stress and emotions in many different ways. Often children who experience trauma can be poorly understood and seen as misbehaving. The stress and emotions that children can experience as a result of the trauma of domestic violence can be expressed in a number of behaviours, including:
o Difficulties with sleep and eating
o Headaches and body aches
o Easily distracted and have trouble focusing
o Social anxiety and lack of confidence
o Clingy or needy of primary care giver
o Self-harm or thoughts of suicide
o Difficulty regulating emotions – i.e. becoming angry or aggressive with little warning
o Low self esteem
o Have difficulty making friendships and positive relationships
o Struggling in a school environment
o Finding it hard to problem solve
o Using bullying behaviours
o Finding empathising with others difficult
Children can, however, recover from the trauma associated with exposure to domestic violence when they are around adults who help create a safe and stable living environment, and nurture close and secure relationships with the people whom they are closest to.
At DVCS our mission is to reduce violence and abuse in relationships by providing services to break the domestic and family violence cycle and support recovery and well-being. We offer a number of support services for children and young people and their families. For more information please go to our Programs for Young People, Women/Families – Staying@Home Program and our Support Group web pages.
Why don't people leave?
There are many reasons why people subjected to violence choose to stay in relationships. Perhaps they are frightened to leave; feel they should stay for their children; they love their partner; or they have hope that things can be different.
Maybe they have lived with violence for so long, they feel they deserve to be treated this way. They may believe they have nowhere else to go, or they may be dependent on their violent partner for financial or personal care.
It is important that responsibility for the violence always rests with the person using violence. It is common for people to ask “why do they stay?” when the more relevant question should be “why don’t they stop?”
I'm worried I'm being stalked on my phone, computer and email. How can I protect myself?
For information on how to keep your phone, computer and email safe please go to our Safety Planning page.
I want to stop using violence. What can I do?
At DVCS we run a program called Room4Change program for men who want to stop their use of violence and controlling behaviours and build healthy, respectful relationships.
Our Room4Change team is committed to helping men make their own lives better by stopping their use of violence and helping them to explore what is important for them and their current and future relationships.
For more information about this program, including how to access it, please go to our Men – Room4Change Program page.
I don't want to end the relationship. Can DVCS still help me?
The choice to stay in the relationship is yours to make. We respect that you are the expert of your life and understand that everyone’s situation is different, and there is no “one size fits all” approach. We understand that violent relationships are very complex. We do not pressure people to leave.
If you decide to stay we can assist you with support and safety planning and, if it is what you want, to apply for a Family Violence Order (FVO). You can apply for a FVO and still remain with your partner. The FVO can place restrictions on your partner to stop their use of violence, without making you leave the relationship or move out.
If you’d like to talk to us about your situation, please call our 24/7 crisis telephone line 02 6280 0900. You can call this number 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
I want to stay at home, but end the relationship. What can I do?
At DVCS we run a program called Staying@Home which provides long-term, ongoing support to women and their families so that they can stay safe in their home after they have left an abusive relationship.
Our Staying@Home team works with women to help them identify and access the support and services they need for themselves and their family now and into the future.
For more information about this program, including how to access it, please go to our Women/Families – Staying@Home Program page.
If I leave where can I go?
Fear of having nowhere to go can make it hard to leave a violent relationship. There are short-term and long-term accommodation options available for women who experience domestic and family violence in the ACT.
For emergency accommodation, including women’s refuges, please call our 24/7 crisis telephone line 02 6280 0900. You can call this number 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
For information about general housing options, including public housing, community housing, private rental and other options please contact OneLink.
I am worried about how I will survive financially. What can I do?
It is a reasonable and valid to be concerned about the financial impact of ending a violent relationship. You may be financially dependent on the person using violence. You may be concerned about how you will pay the rent, mortgage, bills etc. You might feel guilty about the impact of this on your children.
It can take some time to establish financial independence, and this can feel stressful at an already difficult time, but there are supports and options available to you in the ACT.
The Financial Resource for Women Leaving Domestic Violence guide contains lots of practical, easy to read information on how to manage money, budgets, debts and bills, access financial support for housing, health, transport food and get in touch with local financial support services.
Centrelink, can provide crisis payments in situations where people need to leave their homes because of domestic and family violence—to apply call Centrelink on 13 1021.
If you are married, in a de facto or same sex relationship you may be entitled to a property settlement. If you do not work, or earn a significantly lower amount than your spouse/partner and rely on the income of your spouse/partner, you may be entitled to apply for spousal maintenance.
The best way to find out what your legal entitlements are is to obtain independent legal advice from a lawyer who specialises in Family Law.
You can also call DVCS on 02 6280 0900 for help, including referrals to financial and legal support services. You can call this number 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
I have pets and I'm worried about leaving them behind. What can I do?
Often the decision to leave a violent home is made more complicated when the ongoing care of a pet is of concern. For some people, and especially children, moving without their buddies can be difficult.
DVCS works closely with accommodation providers, kennels and catteries and local veterinarians to ensure pets can remain safe when people leave a violent home. We can assist clients to make temporary arrangements for the care of your pet(s).
What can I say to someone I think may be experiencing domestic and family violence?
If you are thinking about approaching a friend or family member to talk about domestic violence, wait until they are alone and it is safe to speak.
Say something like “I’ve noticed you seem really unhappy lately and I’m worried about you. Are you ok?” Don’t push them into talking if they are uncomfortable, but let them know that you’re there if they need to talk.
Avoid saying negative things about the person who is using abusive and violent behaviour. Many people still feel love and commitment to the relationship and may feel protective of the person using violence.
For more information about what to say and how to help please go to our Supporting Someone page.
How can I support an adult who is experiencing domestic and family violence?
Most people who are affected by abusive and violent behaviour turn first to family and friends for support. What you say or do therefore can be vitally important. Your support and encouragement can assist them to feel stronger and more able to make decisions.
For guidance on how to help and what to say please see our Supporting Someone page.
How can I support a child or young person who is experiencing domestic and family violence?
DVCS offers a number of support services for children and young people. You can find out about these services, including how to access them, by clicking on the links below:
You may also be interested in the What are the impacts on children and young people section above. You can also call Kids Helpine on 1800 55 1800 or our 24/7 crisis line on 02 6280 0900.
How can DVCS help?
At DVCS we provide emergency and long-term support services to the ACT community to help break the domestic violence cycle. This includes support, information and practical assistance to people affected by domestic and family violence, both during and after crisis situations.
Our services are available across the Canberra community to everyone—children, young people and adults—affected by domestic and family violence and include:
• a 24/7 telephone crisis counselling service
• access to emergency accommodation
• help with legal and court matters
• support programs
• training and education
For more information about how we help please go to our Advice and Information page.
They are a good parent or would never hurt the children. What can I do?
It is quite often the case that a person using violence will abuse their partner but not their children. However even if children are not the direct targets of violence, it is not healthy for them to grow up in a home where there is violence and conflict.
Growing up in a violent home affects children in a number of ways. It impacts their sense of safety, self-esteem, their feelings, beliefs about the world, relationships with others. It can lead to significant emotional and psychological trauma, similar to that experienced by children who are victims of child abuse. The impact of domestic and family violence can last for many years.
Living with domestic and family violence can make parenting hard. As a parent you might be trying to work out what’s best for your children’s wellbeing. You might be concerned about taking them away from their home or school, or about taking them away from their father. You might worry that you won’t be able to protect the children if you separate. You might also fear that your children will be removed from you if you report the violence.
Whether you are thinking about leaving your partner, have left your partner or plan to stay, there are support services available for you and your children. Keep in mind that it is always the person using violence who is at fault.
To see how DVCS can help you and your family, please visit our Advice and Information page.
I don’t get hit or physically assaulted, is this still domestic and family violence?
Domestic and family violence doesn’t just mean physical abuse, but also emotional, psychological, verbal, sexual and financial abuse. It is about power and control and is intended to cause fear. It includes threats, manipulation and controlling behaviour.
The non-physical elements are often not thought of as violence, but they are just as common and can be just as dangerous.
What is the Family Violence Order process?
A person who is experiencing domestic and family violence can apply to the ACT Magistrates Court for a Family Violence Order (FVO) to protect themselves and their family. FVOs place restrictions on people using violence to stop them committing further acts of violence.
Applying for a FVO can be daunting and confusing. DVCS provides a free, FVO support program, called the Court Advocacy Program, to help people through every step of the FVO process.
For more information about this program, including how to access it, please go to our Legal Support and Advocacy page.
Is my call to DVCS recorded?
We do not make any sound recordings of our conversations. You do not need to give us your name, but if you do we make notes that we spoke to you so you don’t have to repeat your story.
Will DVCS tell someone I’ve called them?
DVCS do not share information unless we are given consent by the client, are legally required to do so, or it is in relation to duty of care. DVCS act under a principle of duty of care, which means there is an obligation to act when the organisation has concerns which could be reasonably foreseen to contribute to injury or harm to yourself or other people. The duty of care principle overrides our obligations in regards to confidentiality. If you are unsure, please let us know at the start of the call and we can chat with you about this.