Last week, IMPACT Community Services’ Managing Director Tanya O’Shea spoke at the launch of Zonta’s 16 Day of Activism to end Gender Based Violence. During and after the event, there were many questions around what people should and should not do as bystanders to domestic violence, and how to approach someone if you are concerned they may be living in a domestic violence situation.
IMPACT Community Services supports domestic violence victims and families living with domestic and family violence through our Intensive Family Support program. This article will offer practical guidance on what we can do as bystanders, as well as what not to do if you witness or suspect domestic violence.
We have all been touched by family and domestic violence in some way. Some of us have experienced and survived it ourselves. Many of us have known someone who is in a domestic violence situation, and we’ve all seen the news reports calling for changes after the death of yet another person at the hands of their partner or spouse.
It’s a sensitive topic, and if you know or suspect that someone is experiencing domestic violence, it can be hard to know what to do, what to say and how to best support them.
Tanya reminds us that as bystanders we have a choice.
“The choice is not to judge, condemn or question. The choice is not to think that social issues such as domestic violence don’t affect me, choosing not to watch stories on the news or listen to the radio or on your social media feed,” she said.
“Turning your heads, reading your phone, remaining in the comfort of your home telling yourself you shouldn’t get involved when you hear the screams next door. Falsely telling yourself those things only happen to other people.”
It’s important to preface the rest of this article by stating that at all times you must keep your own personal safety at the forefront of your actions.
The truth is, there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to domestic violence, because every situation is different. Allowing yourself to be guided by the person who is surviving the abuse (if possible) will allow you – and them – to lower the level of risk.
Remember, domestic violence isn’t just physical abuse. It also includes emotional, financial, sexual, social, verbal, spiritual, elder and child abuse. For more information on the different types of abuse that fall into domestic and family violence, we suggest reading this article from Mission Australia, which offers definitions of each: https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/stories/safe-homes/types-of-domestic-violence-abuse
IMPACT Community Services Bystander Program Coordinator Sasha Sloat said it’s vital to remember that your job is to empower and support. “It’s important not to take it personally if they are dismissive, rude or reject your offer to talk or help as they’re just trying to keep themselves safe,” she said. “Above all, offer to talk, but don’t judge – as soon as you judge them, whether it be for not leaving or something else, you are no longer a safe space.”
Help is available if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence. It’s important to bear in mind that some services will require evidence in order to provide financial assistance. This could be a DVO or a support letter from a service such as IMPACT Community Services or Edon Place, or a letter from Children’s Services.
IMPACT Community Services supports victims and families living with domestic violence through their Intensive Family Support program. Ph 4153 4233
Edon Place provides specialist domestic and family violence support services in the Bundaberg and North Burnett regions, including counselling, perpetrator intervention, temporary crisis accommodation and a range of other support services. Ph 4153 6820
The Department of Housing can provide funding for those escaping domestic violence to start over with furniture and whitegoods or cover the cost of moving their items interstate.
Uniting Care offers Escaping Violence Payments of up to $5000 within 12 weeks of leaving a domestic violence situation. You will need to provide evidence to access this payment.
Energy providers are able to clear debt if you can provide evidence of domestic violence.
Bundaberg Police have a dedicated Vulnerable Persons Unit which supports families living with domestic violence where there has been continued Police intervention.
Keeping Women Safe in their Homes (KWSITH) helps women and their children who have experienced family and domestic violence to remain in their homes or a home of their choosing, when it is safe and appropriate to do so. Keeping Women Safe in their Homes | Department of Social Services, Australian Government (dss.gov.au)
Temporary Visa Holders Experiencing Violence Pilot provides financial assistance to people on temporary visas who may be experiencing family and domestic violence and financial hardship. Family and domestic violence financial assistance | Australian Red Cross Emergency Relief to provide one-off assistance to individuals with no or low income or those experiencing other life-changing events. This can include food, transport, clothing, budgeting assistance and utility assistance. Emergency Relief | Department of Social Services, Australian Government (dss.gov.au)
National Debt Helpline provides over the phone Financial Counselling. The 1800 007 007 telephone service provides a single contact point for people to access financial counselling, either immediately on the phone, or via a referral to your closest Financial Counselling service. Welcome Page - National Debt Helpline (ndh.org.au)
Good Shepherd Australia and NZ provides loans up to $2000 for essential goods and services with no fees and no interest.
Victim Assist – provides financial assistance to victims of violence that happened in Queensland - 1300 546 587
NDIS – for people with a disability who are actively receiving support through NDIS, may be able to access a crisis payment, this should be discussed with the client’s support worker
Legal Aid Queensland - 1300 65 11 88
Women’s Legal Service – 1800 957 957, provides free legal and social work help with domestic violence, complex family law and sexual assault notes counselling privilege matters to women and people who live and identify as women in Queensland.
DVConnect Womensline – 24 Hour Domestic Violence Hotline – 1800 811 811
DVConnect Mensline – 9am until Midnight – 1800 600 636
Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800
Emergencies – Police/Ambulance/Fire – 000