Stigma of being a victim prevents many from reporting domestic violence

COME FORWARD: Central Hunter domestic violence liaison officer Senior Constable Jenny Brown says the stigma can be a barrier for victims in reporting domestic violence.
COME FORWARD: Central Hunter domestic violence liaison officer Senior Constable Jenny Brown says the stigma can be a barrier for victims in reporting domestic violence.

The stigma around domestic violence continues to discourage some victims from reporting offences to police, especially for those from high-income families.

According to Central Hunter domestic violence liaison officer Senior Constable Jenny Brown, while domestic and family violence does not discriminate between socio-economic groups, a person’s social standing does impact on reporting rates.

“Domestic violence does not just happen in that low socio-economic group,” Senior Constable Brown said.

“Yes they do have more pressures like unemployment, or not having enough money, but they are also quicker to report than the well-to-do people.

“These people have more to lose.”

For people in the top socio-economic group the stigma around being a domestic violence victim can be enough of a barrier to stop them from reporting the violence to police.

There is often also more for the victim to lose such as money, property and social status.

“For a lot of people, they think, ‘Will anyone believe me?’” Senior Constable Brown said.

“You think if your husband is a bank manager and he is well-known and liked by people in the community, no one would think he was a domestic violence offender at home.

“Plus you have the beautiful home and the great income, it can be hard to leave all of that.”

While the number of domestic violence incidents has increased exponentially in the Central Hunter local area command, Senior Constable Brown believed some of the statistics pointed to the fact more people were now reporting it.

“There has always been domestic violence, but it was a closed-door policy,” she said.

“Now it makes up between 40 and 45 per cent of general duties officers’ daily work.”

Most of these incidents involve male-on-female violence within a partnership, but there are other forms of family violence.

“We have had a few male victims, but obviously it is a small percentage,” Senior Constable Brown said.

“I have noticed an increase in children-on-parents domestic violence.”

Children-on-parents or on-sibling violence is caused by a number of issues, but the three main problems are drug use, mental health issues and learnt violence, which they have seen at home.

This learnt violence is also one of the causes of partner domestic violence and points to a dramatic need for education.

Senior Constable Brown said more money needed to be spent on education programs in schools to teach children about respectful relationships.

“We need inter-generational change to stop or reduce domestic and family violence,” she said.

“I think it is doable with enough services, but it needs to be focused on prevention.”

More than 1200 App­rehended Violence Orders (AVOs) were issued in the Central Hunter in the past 12 months, many in relation to domestic violence.

Legal Aid NSW, which provides legal services to disadvantaged people, has made the process of getting an AVO easier to understand.

“AVOs are designed to protect people from violent partners, relatives, friends or strangers,” Legal Aid’s Kirsten Cameron said.

“Research has shown that most domestic AVOs are effective in reducing or stopping violent and other negative behaviours.

“Most AVOs are issued to protect victims of domestic violence, but they are also available to protect people from verbal abuse, threats and har­ass­ment by strangers and people other than intimate partners.”

The Legal Aid website has a breakdown of AVOs, including what behaviour is classified as domestic or family violence, the different types of AVOs, how to obtain an AVO and what happens if the other party breaches the AVO.

“Legal Aid NSW also publish brochures online,” she said.  

“We also give free advice and minor assistance on many everyday legal issues, including AVOs.”

For more information, visit www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au.

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If you or someone you know is experiencing violence or sexual assault, phone 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

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