Family Violence & Safety Planning
What we know…
You are not alone. Family violence happens – it does not matter where you live, if you are employed or unemployed, what age you are, whether you are rich, poor, or somewhere in the middle, what race you are, what religion you are, whether you are well educated or not, or what job you do. Family Violence happens in ‘good’ and ‘bad’ neighbourhoods, in cities, in small country towns and in the outback.
Family violence is probably in your circle of friends and in your community. Most of you will know someone who is being victimised, or a person who is abusive to their family.
But, you probably do not know who they are.
We know that 1 in every 3 women at some time in their life will experience family violence.
Family violence is a silent crime – it is under-reported to police, and victims do not usually complain or get counselling, or even see a doctor when they are hurt.
Family violence causes fear, damage and pain. It can last a lifetime, infect the behaviour of children who have seen their parents in a violent relationship, and it grows. It affects every part of life – health, education, parenting, work.
Family violence is not about love. It is about power and control.
Research shows that Family Violence usually gets worse, unless the violent partner is willing to change their behaviour. If it happens once, it usually happens again. It can become more frequent and severe, and sometimes leads to serious injury or death.
Of the 260 homicide incidents in 2007–08, 52% were classified domestic homicides involving victims who shared a family or domestic relationship with the offender. 31% were intimate partner homicides. 55% of female homicide victims were killed by an intimate partner. Indigenous people were overrepresented in intimate partner homicides; one in five (20%) victims were Indigenous, as were nearly one in four offenders (24%). (Homicide in Australia – Australian Institute of Criminology).
The most likely scenario for the homicide of an Australian woman is at home at the hands of an intimate partner.
There is no excuse for family violence. No one ever deserves to be abused or violated. Family violence is not okay.
What is Family Violence?
A hurtful or degrading physical act, like punching, hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping, hair pulling, drugging, shaking, choking, throwing you against a wall, throwing things at you, using a weapon or object.
Pressured or unwanted sexual acts, like kissing, touching, handling (either inside or outside clothes) rape, bondage, demanding sex. Being forced to pose for sexual pictures or perform in or look at pornographic photos or videos is also sexual assault. If any sexual act is forced without consent, it is a sexual assault.
Name calling, put downs, ignoring, threatening or humiliating. Blame for family problems. Threatening to hurt or take children; threatening to hurt or kill themselves if you leave; harming pets, disabling the car, disconnecting the phone, not allowing contact with your friends or family, extreme jealousy.
Threatening physical violence; put downs and insults; speaking in ways that are frightening or threatening; swearing.
Controlling what you do, who you talk to, where you go; checking up on you constantly; isolating you from friends and family; humiliating you in front of other people, even as a “joke”.
Controlling the family income and things that the family own; making you ask for money, or to tell exactly how you spend every dollar; taking your pay or benefit; stopping you from getting or keeping a job; demanding that your family live on too little money.
Using God or religious teachings as a weapon; stopping you from practicing your spiritual beliefs.
The Cycle of Violence
What does it look like?
What does it mean?
Tension builds within your partner for all sorts of reasons (family pressures, work stresses or their own thought patterns) and their behaviour becomes more aggressive and intense regardless of how hard you try to calm them.
Because of your strength or realistic and frightening threats to hurt you, you feel that you are under your partner’s control. Verbal attacks get more aggressive.
A violent act occurs which is usually carried out by your partner in a fit of self-righteous rage. These outbursts are likely to become worse over time.
Your partner may feel ashamed or guilty and afraid of the consequences but, will usually deny or “play down” the violence and refuse to take responsibility for their actions. They may claim that you are responsible for the violence because you provoked them, because you deserved it or because your partner was out of control and did not realise what they were doing. Unfortunately, you will often believe this ‘reasoning’ because to admit anything else will mean that you need to admit to yourself the potentially dangerous situation you (and perhaps your children) are living in.
If you leave after the violent act, your partner will usually try extremely hard to win you back. This can be by giving you expensive gifts, being loving and attentive, and promising that you will never be hurt again. You may return, wanting to believe that your partner has changed. If you still refuse to go back, your partner may make more threats and act violently. Your partner may threaten to make life as difficult as possible for you about property, money, children, relatives etc. This is the time at which the majority of domestic murders occur and you may return out of fear.
Alternatively, your partner may become helpless, saying that they cannot cope without you and threaten suicide if you do not come back to them. Many people return, feeling needed or that they must protect their partner from harming themselves.
If you get back together, you may experience a very intense, intimate relationship where both of you wants to remember the pain of the violence and earlier violence is denied or “played down”. Your partner may be communicative and responsive to your needs and you hope, or believe, that they have changed. Unfortunately, in violent relationships, the cycle continues as the issue of control reappears and the relationship weakens again under the growing tension.
Often, violence increases at the time that you separate from your partner. Your partner might feel a loss of control over you because you are making your own choices. Remember, family violence is about power and control, not love. Your partner may try to increase control at this time – that can lead to higher levels of violence, or more danger for yourself and your children.
You need to make a safety plan, to use in case you need to leave in a hurry.
What to do next (basic safety):
Decide who to call if you feel threatened or in danger.
Decide where you will go if you need a safe place.
Practice travelling to the safe place if possible.
Decide what arrangements you will make for the safety of your children.
Talk to someone you trust about your decision to leave or to stay.
Keep an extra key to your house and your car in a safe place.
Keep bags and boxes handy.
If you can, when you separate from your partner:
Get legal advice on separation and protection orders before you separate.
Save some money for fares for emergency travel.
Pack all medications that you or your children need.
Know where all important papers are kept, and if you can, keep a copy for yourself in a place you can get to.
Think about keeping clothing, medications, papers, keys and cash at a friend or family member’s house.
Make a list of emergency and support telephone numbers and keep them on you if you can.
Make arrangements for your pets – if you need to contact the RSPCA.
Think about where to store belongings to keep them safe, and in a place that you can get to them.
Buy a phone card – STD calls are itemised on bills.
Close bank accounts. Arrange a new address for bank statements – make it clear that your information is not to be released.
Take your name off electricity/gas/phone accounts and tenancy agreements.
Escaping from a violent partner can be hard. If you feel that you need extra security (an A-Z guide):
Request confidentiality at and about appointments.
Old and new names can be on file.
Centrelink has social workers and domestic violence contact officers at major sites. Call Centrelink for help on 131794
Change of address for licence and vehicle registration. It is possible to have those details withheld from public search in some circumstances.
You can temporarily suspend time spent between children and your partner if there is a concern for the children’s safety, even if there are parenting orders in place. You should speak to a lawyer about doing this urgently.
Your name and address can be listed silently. Call the Australian Electoral Commission for help on 132326.
Mail can be redirected. Using a PO Box might help keep you safe. Call Australia Post on 13 76 78 for help.
You can change your Medicare number at the local office, and add your children to your new Medicare card. Call Medicare for help on 132011.
Missing Persons Bureau
Inform them that you and the children are safe, in case your partner reports either you or the children missing.
You can use a false name. You only need to use your real name where you are required to prove your identity (produce your licence, Medicare card, passport or birth certificate) – you cannot use a false name where you are intending to steal from someone.
You can change your name through the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in your state (change of name documents are private, and cannot be given out by the Registry or under GIPA).
Children’s official names cannot be changed without the permission of both parents.
Talk to your children, the principal and teachers about your security and safety.
You can request for your children’s names to be removed from the enrolment register.
You can request the children’s past schools to keep transfer information a secret.
You can inform the school of who the children will be picked up by every day.
A new tax file number can be arranged. Call the ATO for help on 132861.
You can apply for a silent number, or be listed under a false name.
Preparing to Leave
Leaving your home
If it is not an urgent situation, you should get legal advice before you leave. You may not need to leave your home, but might be able to have your partner leave instead. But your safety comes first – you should leave if you feel that you or your children are in danger. If you leave the family home, you do not lose your rights to your share of the home or other property. You should note the date on which you separate from your partner.
When you have made the decision to leave, it is important to plan ahead and be prepared. You should try to take with you as many of the following things that you can. Remember though, nothing is as important as you or your children’s safety – don’t risk safety for things.
Try to leave when it is safe – when your partner is at work, when you are visiting family. Try to minimise the risk of violent arguments or your partner trying to stop you.
What to take with you
Using bags, boxes or suitcases, take:
Health care cards
Pension cards or Centrelink Concession Cards
Passports and Citizenship documents
Medications /prescription repeats
House keys / car keys
Bank books (including for joint accounts)
Cheque books / credit cards / automatic teller cards
Favourite toys or books for your children
Phone card / list of numbers that will be useful to you
Deeds to the house or other property
Tax returns for the last 3 financial years (only if possible)
Jewellery and valuables / your Will
Your address / phone book
Special personal items (photographs or albums)
If the children want to live with you, then if possible, take them with you. If you cannot take them, get urgent legal advice.
Disclaimer: This information is a general guide to the law. It should not be relied on as legal advice. If you have a specific legal problem you should consult a lawyer.
It applies to people who live in, or are affected by, the law as it applies in NSW, Australia. The information contained in this publication is current at 1 January 2014.