Domestic violence murders one woman every week

General news0
Domestic Violence
Photo: Keith Knight – NYC News and Views

By Women’s House, Woollongabba

Across Australia, on average, one woman is killed every week by a violent partner or ex-partner.

In Queensland this year, to date, domestic violence has been responsible for 18 deaths.

The most dangerous time for women and children attempting to leave violent partners is at the time of separation; of those women killed, it is usually within three months of their leaving the relationship. Women’s refuges provide a safe space for women and children who need to escape from persistent and dangerous perpetrators.

Women’s refuges in Australia have a proud legacy and wealth of experience and skills in working with women and children who have experienced violence and abuse. Refuge workers have a well developed understanding of the nature and impact of violence against women and children. They understand that women are not to blame for the violence perpetrated against them and that rather, it is part of a much wider systemic problem.

Refuges provide more than just a bed. They provide 24 hour support to vulnerable and isolated women who may be facing harassment and pursuit by controlling ex-partners.

Domestic violence refuges support women to obtain Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPO) and address the issue of lack of police response to breaches of DVPOs. They provide advocacy to enable access to housing, healthcare, independent income and relief from debt caused by DV.

Refuges provide assistance to women whose visas make them ineligible for social security support or public housing and assist with immigration issues. They provide advocacy in relation to children with Child Protection authorities’ involvement due to domestic violence, assistance to deal with continuing violence post separation, including the abuse of children on contact visits.

Further, refuges offer assistance to women whose DV experience is compounded by drug and alcohol issues, mental health issues or intellectual/physical disabilities which make it more difficult to establish a life free from violence.

Women’s refuges aim to be responsive to the needs of women whose lives have been affected by domestic violence and therefore will attempt to provide advocacy to access everything needed to build an independent and violence free life.

In addition to advocating on behalf of individuals, women’s refuges have a strong tradition of lobbying and campaigning for law reform and improved institutional responses to domestic violence (e.g. CentreLink, Police, Immigration, Child Safety etc.), as well as providing community education about domestic violence. From their activism and inspiration, other specialist domestic violence services have emerged, laws have been established and lives have been saved.

Women’s House opened the first domestic violence refuge in Queensland in 1974. It has a public office in Woolloongabba and provides services for women who have experienced domestic violence and sexual assault.

Women’s House is outraged at the recent loss of many valuable services for women and children, in particular, domestic violence refuges in New South Wales. Staff at Women’s House believe that women’s refuges in Queensland will be put out to tender next year.

Women’s refuges were put out to tender earlier this year in NSW. This process saw the redirection of funding away from smaller specialist domestic violence refuges to big generic religious charities (which, as the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has revealed, have an appalling record in relation to survivors of violence).

These organisations are able to submit cheaper tenders by cutting specialised support available to women and children. Over 20 women’s refuges have been defunded. In stripping funding from specialist domestic violence refuges, the NSW government has put the lives of women and children at risk.

Without specialist domestic violence support, women and children are less likely to leave abusive relationships and far more likely to return to abusive relationships, thus compounding the devastating effects that violence has on their lives. Ironically, for a government focused on cutting costs, this will, in the longer term, result in greater costs to statutory services including police, health departments and social services.

For the sake of women and their children who are desperate to break free from abuse, Women’s House urges the Queensland government not to follow the course taken by NSW. It is essential that the Queensland government funds refuges that have a specialised focus on women and children and a diversity of services which meet the variety of needs required by those affected by violence.

Womens House is a cooperative that runs Women’s Shelters in and around Woollongabba in Brisbane’s inner South.

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