Domestic violence, namely against women, is a global phenomenon, which of late has received serious attention as a crime and breach of human rights.
Usually instigated by a partner, family member or carer, domestic violence is a patterned behaviour by someone who seeks to gain and maintain power and control over the other person.
Whether the abuse is physical, emotional or psychological, it generates fear and can be fatal.
Executive director of Central Domestic Violence Service Maria Hagias is committed to raising awareness about the severity of domestic violence.
Involved with South Australia’s Women’s Safety Strategy since 2005, Ms Hagias says it has always been an issue hidden behind closed doors, “but it’s always been there. Women and societies have only just started to realise what is acceptable and what’s not, although sadly, only a minority of victims report the abuse”.
Although some women are helping to raise awareness by sharing their stories, she stresses that unless we work together, the problem will never go away.
“Before we all get outraged about violence in other countries, we really need to look at our own backyard. It could be your mother, your sister, your aunty, your daughter. It could be you,” she says.
Alison Meneaud, community development manager at Central Domestic Violence Service, says the first thing women need to understand is that they’re not at fault.
“Look out for indicators during the initial stages of a relationship,” she advises. “Perpetrators try to control and isolate their victims from family and friends and are also judgemental of the way their partners act and dress”.
The minute you start to feel that you are not being loved for who you are, but who they want you to be; the minute you start feeling fear or threatened – that’s when you need to seek help.
“It’s our duty of care to do anything we can to keep these women safe. When connecting with our service, a safety plan is put in place which includes six months accommodation, education and employment programs,” Ms Hagias tells.
Speaking to various educators at the centre, they all agree that nobody is born violent – behaviours are learnt from our families and society as a whole.
For this reason, it is vital for a community to challenge inappropriate attitudes and to educate children from a young age regarding their roles in society.
Sadly, both academic and scientific research confirm fear of losing one’s home and having limited access to finances are two critical factors affecting a woman’s decision to leave an abusive relationship.
With two women murdered by their partners every week in Australia, The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children is being implemented to assist victims and aims to change attitudes regarding respect and gender equality.
The government also has its sights set on creating perpetrator rehabilitation and educational programs, as well as a national intervention/restraining order scheme.
Honoured to be involved in the initiative, Ms Hagias was recently selected to represent South Australia on the Council of Australian Governments Domestic Violence Advisory Panel (COAG).
“Ultimately our job is to protect and advocate for women by engaging various service providers such as police, media, schools and the corporate sector. We need to act before it is too late,” she says.
“Be part of the change and make this world a better place for our children”.
We encourage all women who are feeling unsafe and experiencing domestic violence to contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). The official launch of Zahra Foundation Australia – in support of South Australian women and children experiencing domestic violence and Aboriginal family violence – will be taking place on Saturday 5 September, 2015. For more information, visit www.zahrafoundation.org.au