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Safe Steps Advice in Identifying and Responding to Family Violence

Safe Steps is Victoria’s 24/7 Family Violence Response Centre, assisting women and children experiencing family violence though their phone line and specialist support services.

In the 2017-2018 financial year they received 104,189 calls – unsurprising considering 1 in 4 Australian women are affected by family violence.

We spoke to them identifying family violence and how to sensitively respond.

Is Domestic Violence the same as Family Violence?

Domestic violence refers to intimate partner violence whereas family violence is a much broader term which encompasses extended family.

What are the different types of family violence?

  • Controlling behaviour: “can do…/can’t do…
  • Emotional abuse: e.g. threatening to leave, depleting self worth or independence
  • Psychological abuse: “you’re loosing it…
  • Financial abuse: “how can you leave with no money?
  • Sexual abuse: there is a right to say NO even in a relationship.
  • Physical abuse: unwanted physical force against another person.
  • Visa abuse: “promise” to get partner a visa.
  • Technology facilitated abuse: e.g. having access to passwords, controlling usage, comments on social media.

Can family violence ever be justified e.g due to intoxication, fatigue?

There are no justifications for family violence- it is always a CHOICE.

How can you identify someone who may be a victim of family violence?

Possible indicators include:

  • Physical: bruising, fractures, chronic pain, fresh scars and cuts, complications during pregnancy.
  • Psychological: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sleep problems, alcohol or drug dependence, impaired concentration.
  • Emotional: feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, disassociation, fear, shame.
  • Social/Financial: homelessness, isolation, parenting difficulties, socially withdrawn.
  • Demeanor: unconvincing explanation of injuries, describes partner as controlling or prone to anger, always accompanied by partner who does most of the talking, being stressed about not being home by a certain time.

How can I approach someone I suspect may be experiencing family violence?

There are many different types of questions you can ask.

  • Prompting questions: “Ive noticed…
  • Open Ended Clarifying questions: “Can you tell me a little more about that?”
  • Direct questions: “Are you feeling safe at home?

It is often difficult to know which type of the question is the most appropriate to ask. If someone is in denial that they are experiencing family violence, is it is best not to ask a direct question. Begin by planting the seed, seek to break the isolation barrier and then refer on to a specialised family violence worker.

Why do women not often reach out for help?

  • Fear
  • Values
  • Shame
  • Embarrassment
  • Denial
  • Religion

What support services are available?

Alternatively, if you or someone you know may be experiencing Family Violence, please do not hesitate to contact Nicholes Family Lawyers on 9670 4122. We can make arrangements to complete an Application for an Intervention Order on your behalf and otherwise provide advice about the impact of child abuse and family violence in family law matters.


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