Article

Beyond the statistics - Domestic and Family Violence


Bec FullbrookDec 2, 2019

While this article is centered around violence against women, we acknowledge that domestic violence affects everyone in our society and that men are victims of this too. Violence is never OK, regardless of the gender of the victim or perpetrator.

Facts and figures

The facts say it all. Domestic and Family violence is a serious problem:

  • 1 in 6 Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner (1)
  • not only do women continue to be over-represented as victims of intimate partner homicide, (accounting for 79% of all intimate partner homicides) but on average - 1 woman per week is murdered by a current or former partner (2)
  • Australian women are nearly three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner (3)
  • Intimate partner violence is the greatest health risk factor for women aged 25-44 (4)

The facts are even more alarming when we consider further marginalized groups:

  • 5.9% of women with a disability or long-term health condition compared to 4.3% of those without had experienced violence in the previous 12 months (5)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women report experiencing violence in the previous 12 months at 3.1 times the rate of non-Indigenous women (6)
  • In 2014–15, Indigenous women were 32 times as likely to be hospitalised due to family violence as non-Indigenous women (7)

Not just a statistic - a personal story

When I was 18, I had recently moved out of home to live with my partner. On the outside, I was a bright young woman dancing joyfully along the precipice of a promising future and all the exciting opportunities the world had on offer. However, reality painted a different picture. Behind closed doors I was silently suffering as a victim of domestic violence, without even realising how serious the situation had become, or that help was out there.

As often happens, the violence had escalated slowly over time, which made it harder for me to clearly see the situation I had found myself in for what it was. The morning after one particularly traumatic episode, I was on the train to work as normal. What happened next changed the course of my life (and quite possibly saved it). I pulled a compact mirror out of my bag and noticed some of the makeup I had applied to cover some marks had rubbed off, so I hurriedly began touching it up. What I hadn't realised was that a co-worker of mine had gotten on the train and was walking over as she saw me do this. When she asked what I was doing, I tried to brush off the question and change the topic. She gently and patiently persisted and finally I had ashamedly confessed to her what had transpired the night before. She reassured me that this was not acceptable, not my fault, and not something to be ashamed about. She explained that help is out there and that I could confide in her. I wasn't able to safely take action until a while later, but on that day for the first time, I had acknowledged "this is domestic violence" and understood that I didn't need to go through this on my own.

In more recent years, I had an ex-partner that became obsessive and began stalking me. He would show up at my house at random hours of the night, leave threatening voicemails, and would either lurk around my workplace, or threaten to do so. While it's a shame that such measures needed to be taken, I was so grateful that I was able to seek support from my workmates and employer during this time, through implementing safety precautions such as:

  • Letting reception know I had a safety concern - informing them of his name, what he looked like and asked them to screen any incoming calls for me
  • Two colleagues I confided in would accompany me to buy lunch, and when they left for the day they would let me know which exits were clear
  • My manager allowed me to adjust my start and finish times to be less predictable to avoid encountering this person

The fact that 1 in 6 women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a former or current partner, means that while my personal story of domestic violence is individual, the violence itself is not unique. You have worked with or know someone who has been a victim of domestic and family violence.

Clearly something needs to be done, but what should we do and how should we do it?

Taking action: What can employers do?

Over 60% of women experiencing violence from a current partner are working, so the impact employers can make is significant and widespread. Implementing a comprehensive Domestic and Family Violence policy that is easily accessible, is a transparent and effective way for employers to outline their commitment to supporting vulnerable employees. Here is some advice WORK180 share with our endorsed employers on Domestic and Family Violence policies:

  • Include paid leave. The government has legislated that employers must offer 5 days of unpaid leave for victims of DFV. While this is a great starting point, employees suffering from DFV are often financially disadvantaged, so ensuring you provide a paid leave option is crucial.
  • Not requiring evidence or supporting documentation with the leave request
  • Informing staff of flexible leave options available to them
  • Providing guidance for managers by outlining how to identify beaviours relating to DFV, how to approach the conversation and how to respond to disclosure of DFV
  • Listing out support services that employees can access such as EAP information, and other support services in Australia.
  • Including a date for the policy to be reviewed

Taking Action: What can coworkers do?

As highlighted by my personal experience, coworkers often play a key role in supporting those in DFV situations to seek help.

To support a colleague who may be experiencing abuse, you might consider:

  • Looking out for potential indicators of abuse
  • Asking if the person is OK and expressing concern but avoid intrusive questioning or interrogating
  • Referring them to support services or counselling – you are not expected to be a counsellor
  • Follow up, but don’t pressure them into making decisions, allow them to remain in control of what happens
  • Maintaining confidentiality as much as possible

What now?

If you’re not sure where your organisation sits in the spectrum of supportive employers, completing our WORK180 HR Health check is free online, takes under 5 minutes and will give you insights based on your industry, company size, as well as suggestions for where to improve.

If you or someone you know is affected by Domestic or Family Violence, you can find support at;

  • DV Connect Womensline - 24/7 on 1800 811 811
  • 1800RESPECT #1800 737 732 - Online and telephone counseling run by the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counseling Service.
  • Lifeline #13 11 14 - 24/7 telephone crisis support.
  • Mensline Australia #1300 789 978 - 24/7 counselling for men on relationship issues, not specifically domestic violence.
  • Daisy App – Connecting Women to services in their local area including legal, housing and finance

Subscribe to our HR professionals newsletter and keep informed about the latest news and information on inclusion and diversity, hear what other employers are doing to attract women into their organisations and read inspiring stories from candidates.

  1. Personal Safety Survey, Australian National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS)
  2. Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) 2017. The 2017 National Homicide Monitoring Program report
  3. ABS 2017 Personal Safety, Australia, 2016, ABS cat. no. 4906.0. Canberra: ABS.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2018. Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia 2018.
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017. Personal Safety, Australia
  6. Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (SCRGSP) 2016. Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2016
  7. Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (SCRGSP) 2016. Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2016

About the author

Bec Fullbrook

Bec is an Inclusion Strategist at WORK180, mental health advocate, poet, and aspiring omniglot. She's passionate about human rights, gender equality and inclusion.


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