Unfortunately many of us have heard the statistic that one woman in Australia is killed every week by a current or former partner.
What many of us probably don’t realise is that there are many other forms of domestic violence which have a far broader impact.
Anywhere from one quarter to one third of Australian woman will experience physical or sexual violence by a man at some point after they turn 15 years old. Global figures from the World Health Organisation suggest that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence, or non-partner sex-ual violence during their lifetime.
This problem doesn’t just impact women, one in three victims of family violence and abuse is a male. But the most vulnerable victims of family violence are the children of the relationship, who have no power to leave or protect themselves.
At a seminar for family lawyers the speaker told us about a telephone survey of 2,000 randomly selected people. The majority of those questioned, both men and women, had been assaulted within the criminal definition of that word by an intimate partner. None of the family lawyers present at this seminar objected to that statistic.
As experienced family law practitioners, we see the outcome of this family violence every day in our professional lives. We are keen to be involved in primary prevention of the problem, as well as helping people after the fact.
- Domestic violence is a broad ranging issue that impacts people you know and care about
- Primary prevention aims to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place
- We are available, free of charge, to speak with your group about primary prevention
Primary Prevention v Secondary Prevention
The goal of primary prevention is to stop the problem from developing in the first place. In medicine, primary prevention is aimed at stopping the disease or injury from occurring. The goal of secondary prevention is to intervene and assist after the illness or injury has already been diagnosed.
As family lawyers, we do a lot of secondary prevention. After the family violence has occurred clients come to us and we try to help them to deal with what has happened in the past, and prevent it from re-occurring.
Primary prevention for family violence includes identifying acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in a relationship. Some people refer to certain behaviour as being a ‘red flag’, this is the sort of behaviour we want to help people to learn to identify. Rather than dealing with the family violence after it occurs, we want to help people to be pro-active and to only give their time and themselves to respectful, mutual and supportive relationships.
Even young children can learn to remove themselves from dangerous or destructive situations, rather than expect someone else to make the person behave. Children often want adults to make others behave the way they should. This belief that they can change the bad behaviour of another person is often untrue, and more importantly can be dangerous as they move into adult relationships.
We still look before we cross the road at a zebra crossing because even though the car should stop, we know that sometimes they don’t. Arresting the driver who doesn’t stop and charging them with a crime after they hit the pedestrian is secondary prevention. Teaching the child to look before crossing is primary prevention.
Because we know that not all car drivers do the right thing, we teach children to protect themselves by looking to the left and to the right before they cross the road. Equally, we need to remove ourselves from other situations that are dangerous or destructive to our emotional well being, or our physical safety, in other areas of life.
- No Respect, No Relationship will help people to make good choices about relationships
- It aims to help people to either leave destructive relationships, or to be a better member of the relationship themselves by respecting the other person
The original No Respect, No Relationship campaign
Most people have seen the advertising with the slogan “To Violence Against Women, Australia Says No’. Originally it was going to be titled ‘No Respect, No Relationship’ but was, for some reason, changed at the last minute. The original campaign was aimed at young people of both genders to help them to understand that emotional, physical and sexual violence are unacceptable.
The campaign was going to have TV adds, and also a youth communication strategy including a radio series and sponsorship of youth events, online resources and also a school curriculum. The communication objectives included teaching young men that violence and control are not okay, that women don’t want violence or control, and teaching both genders that emotional abuse needs to be taken seriously.
Getting involved once the violence has started is only secondary prevention, saying no to violence against women is important, but it is only part of the picture.
Expecting and giving respect in any relationship, intimate or otherwise, is primary prevention that prepares people to be part of healthier relationships, and hopefully reduces the risk of remaining in a relationship that will end in family violence.
There are many types of family violence, including emotional, economic, and psychological, as well as physical and sexual.
Usually, the physical and sexual violence occurs after the abuser has laid some ground work, often using one of the other forms of family violence, such as or controlling or manipulative behaviour.
Teaching people to identify this behaviour may help them to get out of the situation in the earlier stages, or it might give them the confidence to know that this behaviour is not loving behaviour.
If nothing else, expecting and giving respect to people in relationships will form stronger, more beneficial relationships.
How Can We Help?
We can talk with your students about the importance of respect in any relationship, romantic or otherwise, in a number of areas, including:
Being healthy and safe
- How giving and expecting respect in all relationships is important, and will benefit their relationships
- How to respond, and how not to respond, if they think a friend or family member is in an abusive relationship, in a way that is safe for them and helpful for the victim
Communicating and interacting for health and wellbeing
- Discussing the difference between some-one who is upset, lacks social skills, or makes a mistake, and someone who is systematically displaying manipulative or abusive behaviours
- The difference between helping some-one who is a victim (and may lash out) to reconnect and form relationships, and putting yourself in a situation where you become a victim of the victim.
- Practising personal skills such as expressing needs, wants and feelings. This includes helping a person who feels they are not respected to communicate why they feel that way to their support person or, if appropriate, to the person who makes them feel that way.
Personal and social capability
- Helping students to handle themselves in that situation in a way that is helpful to them, and the victim (if they themselves are not the victim)
- This will include helping the students to identify many of the assumptions that are made in relation to domestic violence, and discuss why these assumptions might be incorrect, and how similar assumptions might colour their understanding of other issues in society like gambling, alcoholism and poverty.
We have suggested these topics as we understand that they might fit in with a school’s curriculum, though we are happy to tailor our talk to a specific issue that you are studying with the students or that impacts your students. We can also talk to them about more specific things like 'sexting', age of consent, online bullying or unauthorised images.
We are happy to answer their questions and will give the talk in an inter-active fashion. For instance we will ask them to identify, in specific situations, what is respectful both for them and for the person they are interacting with. That is, we want them to think about how and whether they behave in a respectful manner, and what should they expect of others.
Please use the blue button at the right hand of this page titled 'Contact Us' to let us know if you are interested in having somebody come and speak at your school or community event.
Janis Donnelly-Coode is an experienced family lawyer who is keen to share her observations of disrespectful and damaging relationships with the community in an effort to increase awareness of the issues surrounding this complex problem.
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