Sutherland Shire Domestic Violence Committee

The Journey towards Safety and Healing

It is a basic human right that all women and children can live safely in their home. For victims of domestic violence, this is not occurring. The journey towards safety and healing from trauma will be different for everyone.

If you are in a domestic violence situation the decision to leave is often a difficult one. After living with domestic violence your self esteem and self-confidence may be low. It may take time to feel positive and hopeful about the future. This is quite normal and to be expected. Some women may also choose not to leave the relationship as they believe staying is their safest option.

Women may leave and return a number of times before they are able to leave permanently. It is important to realise that leaving does not always mean you will become safe immediately. You may be in the greatest danger from your partner’s abuse at the time of separation. Any attempt to leave should be planned with the safety of you and your children in mind.

While the challenges may seem overwhelming, many women have been able to leave abusive relationships and build safe, healthy, happy and fulfilling lives for themselves and their children.

If you are in immediate physical danger and need assistance, please call 000.

There are many ways you can reach out to get help. You don’t have to already have left before you reach out for support.

You can ask police to intervene, you can call a government funded hotline, you can get a health professional to refer you to a local support service, or you can self-refer to a local service specialising in domestic violence support.

Taking that first step is the hardest, but once you do, you will have options made available to you. Local support agencies are able to co-ordinate services to support you, from safety planning, housing, to emergency financial assistance and long term counselling and support. Most importantly, you will be supported without judgement, and by people who are experienced in helping people in similar situations.

The Role of Police

Police play an important role in ensuring community safety and supporting the protection of women and children from domestic violence.

In the case of domestic violence, police may:

  • Be the first on the scene to protect you from any violence or provide/seek emergency support when it is required.
  • Investigate an incident of domestic violence to determine any safety needs of victims and family members and/or to gather evidence for any relevant charges.
  • Charge perpetrators and bring them to court for any relevant breach of the law.
  • Initiate an ADVO application on behalf of a victim or family members who need protection.
  • Support victims to navigate any court process (particularly ADVOs).
  • Assist victims to locate and access support services.
  • Monitor repeat victims or perpetrators to coordinate responses from a variety of agencies, to reduce occurrences of violence.

Domestic violence is a crime and should be reported to police.

It is especially important to do so where a perpetrator has access to weapons. Reporting incidents of violence allows police to best support the safety of women and other family members, and can help victims access other supports to ensure their wellbeing.

AVO’s and ADVO’s

An ADVO or Apprehended Domestic Violence Order is applied by the court to ensure the protection of a person in a domestic or intimate relationship from future violence by a perpetrator. These orders are not criminal charges but can limit the behaviour of a perpetrator, including restricting where they can go, who they can contact, their ability to hold weapons and other aspects of family safety.

Police can apply for an ADVO where violence, threats or harassment have occurred and there is a reasonable fear it will occur again. Police can also apply provisional ADVO orders on a perpetrator until the court hears the ADVO application. Breaching these orders is a criminal charge. Always notify police if a perpetrator breaches an ADVO. Individuals can also apply to the court for an AVO.

Safety Planning

You can make an appointment with a support agency to discuss safety planning, even if you’re not ready to leave the relationship. Getting some advice early can help you maintain your physical safety throughout the process of separation.

Different safety plans are needed for different situations; for example:

  • When living with the perpetrator
  • When planning to leave the relationship
  • When separated and living separately
  • What to do in workplace situations
  • What to do if in a public place
  • How to deal with family gatherings/changeovers
  • Safety planning can be complex depending on the individual’s circumstance, but it aims to decrease the immediate and long- term risks to the safety of women and children.  ( © Women’s Legal Services NSW, 2013)

The Future

There is a future after experiencing domestic violence. With support, women can move from living in unpredictable danger to reliable safety, can acknowledge memories but not live in them, and can become socially connected and not isolated.

What can family and community members do to help?

Family and community members may be able to see the early warning signs of domestic violence or may be the first people that victims reach out to for help. In these instances, the community can play an important role in supporting victims to access the right supports. If you are aware of domestic violence occurring, you can:

  • Listen to those who have been impacted, believe them and provide reassurance
  • Provide the information about available services and supports listed at the end of this brochure
  • Respect their knowledge of their own experience of domestic violence and any decisions they make about steps going forward
  • Challenge the condoning of violence against women
  • Promote women’s independence and decision-making
  • Strengthen positive and respectful relationships
  • Support the family to access information about available services and supports listed at the end of this brochure.