New Research Sheds Light On Long Term Impacts Of Domestic Violence

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19th June 2009, 07:30am - Views: 963
New Research Sheds Light on Long Term Impacts of Domestic Violence

19 June 2009

EMBARGOED UNTIL 6.00am 19/6/09

New research by The Benevolent Society reveals that domestic violence has many serious long term impacts, which can continue years after the abusive relationship has ended.

The research report, Moving Forward, made possible by the generous support of Oroton, will be launched today by NSW Minister for Women, Verity Firth.

It presents findings from a series of interviews with women who have left a violent relationship, giving insight into the long term effects of domestic violence, the challenges women face when rebuilding their lives, and the support and services they find the most useful.

"This research is significant because it examines a little studied area of domestic violence, and reveals new information about the issues these women are dealing with, and what works for them in terms of support services and strategies," said Dr Genevieve Nelson, principal researcher and author of Moving Forward.

"Most existing support services focus on the immediate crisis of domestic violence, so once a woman moves out of that abusive relationship she finds there are few long term support services available that meet her needs.

"A key finding of this research says women who've experienced domestic violence need support services to be free, anonymous and flexible.

"For many women, the physical, psychological and financial impacts of domestic violence last long after the abusive relationship ends, preventing them from reaching their full potential.

"Women in this situation often face all sorts of pressures, including financial difficulties, trouble finding affordable rental accommodation for themselves and their children, loneliness and isolation from family, friends and the community, and challenges related to the custody of their children."

Another important issue highlighted by this report is the hidden side of domestic violence, and the fear and shame attached to it. Of the eight women who were interviewed for this study, two of them had never previously revealed to anyone that they had experienced domestic violence.

A staff member of a domestic violence support service who was interviewed as part of this research echoed this concern, saying "For every woman that asks for help, there are probably 10 woman who haven't."

Some of the main barriers that prevent domestic violence survivors from moving forward include:

* not feeling able to seek help
* inaccessibility of services that could potentially provide help
* experiencing negative attitudes among service providers and/or family and friends
* the long term impact of abuse on their health and wellbeing.

The Benevolent Society's General Manager of Social Policy and Research, Annette Michaux said Moving Forward highlights a need for policy makers, funders and providers of domestic violence support services to improve the flexibility and accessibility of services.

"While these findings are just the tip of the iceberg, this information will be a good start for a whole range of service providers, who may now review their services and look at how they can better support women by removing some of the barriers they face when moving on from domestic violence.

"This research will also be useful for governments who fund domestic violence support services to know what will make these more effective, and ensure these services are available long term."

The women who were interviewed for this study highlighted a range of personal strategies that helped them heal and rebuild their lives, including:

* setting goals and making plans for the future
* returning to work or education
* practical activities like writing, exercising and reading
* doing things for others such as helping other women who have experienced domestic violence, or;
* focusing attention and efforts on children

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: Erin Schrieber, ph 0410 003 934

To read the report, visit www.bensoc.org.au

Quotes from the research interviews

"This ongoing feeling of being watched and monitored and regulated and controlled means that oftentimes these women don't have any supports because they've already been cut off from family and friends."

"Don't say `oh well, we're busy at the moment, but next Tuesday at three o'clock there's an appointment available'. Forget it! Because by that time she's probably lost her courage or, if he's found out she's called, she's not only lost her courage and been beaten up in the process... So it's having services available now, not next Tuesday at three o'clock. You know it takes a lot of courage for beaten, battered women to finally ask for help."

"It's just that fear of not knowing and the fear of consequences of leaving. That whole fear, it just immobilises your every move."

"I honestly think that the emotional bruises are the one that does more damage. Your bruises and that heal."

"I feel strong about what I talk about now because I feel better... Yes there were times in the past where I started talking about it [and] used to get really upset, but I think as a person I've accepted how it is now. And I think when I look back, I think I climbed Mt Everest."

The Benevolent Society
Established in 1813, The Benevolent Society is Australia's first charity. Nearly two centuries after we first started helping the destitute and homeless in colonial Sydney, our 800 staff and 900 volunteers continue to support more than 16,000 children and adults each year in metropolitan, regional and rural New South Wales and in Queensland.

The Benevolent Society works with women, children, families, older people, people with a disability and those who care for them, and people affected by adoption. We support vulnerable and disadvantaged people across the lifespan to build on their strengths and lead happy and fulfilling lives. We help to connect communities through support groups, volunteer visiting programs and community projects.

Our vision is that every person is healthy, safe, connected and has a meaningful and productive role in their community.

SOURCE: The Benevolent Society
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