Family Violence Prevention
If you are reading this because you need immediate or urgent assistance, you can call:
Police or ambulance: 000
At any time if you are worried about you or your children’s safety.
The Women's Domestic Violence Crisis Service: (03) 9322 3555 or STD Freecall: 1800 015 188
(24-hour, 7 days a week)
For women and children fleeing domestic violence.
Victorian Centres against Sexual Assault and the After Hours Sexual Assault Crisis Line: 1800 806 292
(24 hour emergency or crisis care service)
Child Protection Crisis Line: 131 278
(24-hour, 7 days a week)
To report concerns of child physical and/or sexual abuse.
The Men's Referral Service: (03) 9428 2899 or STD Freecall 1800 065 973
(12.00 noon to 9:00 pm Monday to Friday)
For men who are concerned about their violent and/or abusive behaviours.
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
(24-hour, 7 days a week)
Telephone support, information and referral service, helping men to deal with relationship problems.
LifeWorks' Family Violence Prevention
LifeWorks works to prevent violence of any nature.
At LifeWorks, all of our services require the screening for family and domestic violence and the development of appropriate interventions, programmatic responses and referrals. The safety of those who have experienced or witnessed violence or abuse is of paramount concern for all staff working with clients who are face with violence.
As family counsellors, dispute resolution practitioners and educators, LifeWorks' staff view violence in the context of family and other communal systems.
While LifeWorks recognises the need for individual responsibility, this organisation also recognises the need at times to advocate for those who may be temporarily disempowered and require intervention on their behalf on moral or legal grounds.
LifeWorks recognises its legal responsibility to act in response to explicit threats to life, limb and property, as well as mandatory reporting obligations for children who are exposed to violence and abuse (see limits to confidentiality).
The above obligations commence at the first point of contact with LifeWorks either at reception or intake and assessment or referral. These same obligations may emerge at any stage during an intervention. (Our own in-house research indicates that only 6% of clients present initially as experiencing and/or witnessing family violence and/or abuse. At case close, 35% of clients identify violence and abuse as significant factors in their lives and relationships.)
How do we define violence at LifeWorks?
Domestic violence is the use of any form of violent, threatening, coercive, controlling behaviour or abuse by one person to dominate another.
A distinction is sometimes made between domestic violence which might occur between intimate partners—under the same roof—and family violence which may occur within the broader family or kinship system—between an uncle and a niece, for example.
Forms of Violence and Abuse
Although disagreements and arguments may reasonably arise in relationships and might cause ‘unintended hurt’, domestic violence and abuse are embedded in distorted ‘power’ relations where fear is the key element and the intention—conscious or unconscious—is to control, humiliate and generally do harm. Violent and abusive behaviour can include any or all of the following:
(a) Physical Abuse – hitting, punching, slapping, damaging of household goods and furniture, injuring with weapons, or physically threatening to do any of the above. It may lead to serious injury or death and may or may not include the use of weapons.
(b) Sexual Abuse – to insist on intercourse without a partner’s consent, or to perform or demand sexual acts that a partner does not want, forcing them to perform sexual acts that cause pain or humiliation or forcing them to have unwanted sex with others. Sexual abuse is also any sexual behaviour with children.
(c) Emotional and Psychological Abuse – includes deliberately undermining a persons confidence, put downs, threats, harassment, denigration of a person and their capacity to act in their chosen roles, e.g. mother, father, homemaker, provider. It may lead a person to believe they are insane, stupid, crazy and generally humiliates, degrades and demeans the victim.
(d) Verbal Abuse – insults regarding physical attractiveness and a person’s capacity to cope and succeed on their own. It may include threats to harm the victim or someone else or their property, threats to take children, to commit suicide, using put downs and general ridicule.
(e) Financial and Economic Abuse – forces the partner to be financially dependent on the abuser, including money denied to a partner so that they may be expected to manage with less than the amount to cover necessary household costs and to go without personal necessities. It can include complete control over finances or the use of access to money as a means of control over where a person may go, what they may do or who they may see.
(f) Spiritual Abuse – describes the damage family violence does to the spirit of those who have been abused. It involves the shame experienced when everyone in the community is aware of the violence. It also includes the experience of women who see it as their duty (often religiously motivated) to endure violence in order to preserve a marriage.
(g) Social Abuse and Controlling Behaviours – includes controlling what the victim does, who they see, where they go, isolating them from their friends and family, placing restrictions on employment opportunities or work-place activity, or denying access to the family car and phone. It may include verbal or physical abuse in public or in front of friends.
(h) Separation Violence and Stalking – domestic violence often continues after separation and may take the form of harassment or stalking which involves activities such as loitering and following the victim, making persistent telephone calls, sending continual letters or emails.
Any of these forms of violence or abuse can have serious effects on victims ranging from low self-esteem to suicide or homicide.
Research indicates that the majority of homicides in Australia involve ‘intimate others’, with males killing their female partners in approximately 60% of cases, usually after a domestic violence altercation between the victim and the offender.
What the Family Law Act Says
Under the Family Law Act 1975, section 4(1)
“family violence means conduct, whether actual or threatened, by a person towards, or towards property of, a member of the person’s family that causes that or any other member of the person’s family reasonably to fear for, or reasonably to be apprehensive about, his or her personal wellbeing or safety.”
‘Reasonable’ is noted as: “a person reasonably fears for, or reasonably is apprehensive about, his or her personal wellbeing or safety in particular circumstances if a reasonable person in those circumstances would fear for, or be apprehensive about, his or her personal wellbeing or safety.
Family Violence Screening
The objective of screening for family violence is for all of our service staff to be pro-active in the early identification and response to violent and abusive behaviour in individuals, couples and families.
The safety of those who have experienced or witnessed violence or abuse is of paramount concern for all staff working with, or in contact with, any client where there is violence.
Screening for family violence happens at all stages of service delivery, and in the context of the research findings which indicate that:
85% to 90% of victims of domestic violence are women assaulted by male partners (sometimes referred to as intimate partner violence). Of the other 10% to 15% of cases, men or men and women in same-sex relationships may be victims. These men and women may face additional isolation and fear due to social attitudes toward gender roles and/or sexual orientation.
Australian Bureau of Statistics research also indicates that 18% of women experience sexual violence and 33% experience physical assault, with children being present in approximately 89% of such incidents.
It has long been recognised that service providers such as LifeWorks are ideally positioned to identify and respond to issues of family violence and thus offer early intervention within the cycle of abuse.
It is clearly apparent that mainstream service-providers and professionals potentially have a very important role to play in identifying relationships in which domestic violence is occurring (often at an earlier stage than domestic violence providers are able to do).
Identifying Family Violence
At LifeWorks all practitioners must hold qualifications in psychology, social or behavioural sciences, law or education with post graduate studies in counselling, family therapy, dispute resolution, education or training.
In addition, all practitioners must be competent in understanding:
- family violence in its many forms
- the trauma associated with family violence whether currently occurring or having occurred in the early life of a client
- the paramount concern for the safety of women and children
- the incidence of violence and spousal homicide in the Australian community
- the nature of violent structures including concepts of responsibility, accountability, secrecy, collusion, minimisation and entitlement
- contemporary theories concerning family violence
- ideological and political issues, including the gendered nature of family violence
- issues of cross-cultural concern
- the impact on partners and children who experience and/or witness violence
- the systemic nature of violence
- issues of safety for staff, clients, partners, children and the wider community
- legal implications for working as a practitioner in relation to family violence
- the internal and external referral options available for clients who experience or witness violence and abuse.
Types of Intervention
For clients where family violence is evident, a range of interventions are used at LifeWorks according to the practitioner’s assessment of the client’s needs, readiness and the safety of those seeking our services. These interventions include:
- individual counselling
- family counselling
- couple counselling
- child and adolescent counselling
- structured groups for men
- structured groups for women
- structured groups for parents
- dispute resolution
- internal referral
- external referral
- ancillary interventions, such as the use of Intervention Orders, police involvement, child protection, temporary separation, family violence crisis and support services.
A decision to employ a particular intervention is made by a practitioner only after all safety concerns have been addressed, the client’s capacity to therapeutically engage in the work or their agreement to participate in the recommended intervention and the appropriateness of the intervention at the time of application.
If you would like to read more about Family Violence and its consequences, click through to the following article: 'The Exiled Child'.