Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Early findings from a survey of domestic violence victims have uncovered the devastating legacy it imposes on the day-to-day lives of Australian women long after the cycle of violence ends.
A research partnership between the University of South Australia and Curtin University has already heard from 175 women who have come forward to tell their story of domestic violence. Their stories reveal that women who are subject to domestic violence are living with the devastating impact sometimes decades after the violence has ended.
The early results of the survey show that the legacy of domestic violence has profound effects on all aspects of women’s lives, particularly in key areas of housing, employment and mental health.
Some of the early findings show:
• More than 50% of the women have had to change their jobs, hours of work or job type as a result of the domestic violence;
• 65% reported that the reason to change jobs was having to move away from the perpetrator or they felt unable to perform their job properly due to lack of confidence and self-esteem;
• Before the domestic violence, the majority of women were in a jointly owned home and have since moved to private rental with an increase in housing costs;
• More than 30 % of the women have had to make a significant geographical move as a result of the domestic violence; and
• The majority of women reported that they had very good mental health before the violence but their mental health was very poor as a result of the violence, including reporting high levels of anxiety, depression and fear.
There are many types of domestic violence but the research shows that 40 per cent of women globally report sexual or physical partner violence. In Australia, researchers know that women experience most abuse from men they know and in particular their partners.
Lead researcher and University of South Australia expert Dr Sarah Wendt said domestic violence did not discriminate according to age or social circumstance.
“It occurs right across the spectrum with the latest statistics showing one in three Australian women have experienced domestic violence,” Dr Wendt said.
“While the cohort of women who have responded to our survey is small in proportion, the voices we have heard already present a powerful insight into the long-term consequences that follow domestic violence in the years and decades afterwards.
“This is uncharted territory for research into the impact of domestic violence.”
Professor Donna Chung, Curtin University’s lead researcher for the project, said there would also be a focus on the long-term impacts of domestic violence.
“These brave women have broken the silence about the long-term suffering experienced by women and their families and the engulfing effects it has on women’s housing, employment and mental health across their life-course,” Dr Chung said.
Dr Wendt said there was little understanding about how domestic violence impacts on women’s everyday lives and how it can limit their opportunities and capacities to act as citizens.
“Domestic violence can damage women’s mental health as well as their housing and employment situations, things we all need to be able to be full members of society, but perhaps take for granted,” Dr Wendt says.
“We know how often the police are called to domestic violence situations and that refuges cannot cope with the number of women and children seeking support, but we know much less about the longer lasting impacts of domestic violence.
“The effects of violence and abuse don’t just end when people escape the relationship and now we are hearing about how this impacts on women’s lives later, particularly on their health and wellbeing, working and personal lives.”
The deadline for submissions to the survey is April 4 2014. Women wishing to participate, visit www.unisa.edu.au/genderandviolence.