Unsafe State: What to do when your partner turns against you
We’ve all heard the facts and figures. We’ve seen the devastated families grieving on the news when their daughters, sisters and mothers are brutally murdered or assaulted and left to suffer – or die. But does any of it actually sink in, until we become a statistic ourselves?
In NSW, the most dangerous place for a woman to be is in her own home. Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of preventable death, disability and illness for women aged 15 to 44 years, and yet very few women think it could happen to them, and even fewer are prepared.
I spoke to Hayley Foster, the Director of Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service (WDVCAS) NSW, to get clearer on what women can do, if they find themselves in an unsafe situation.
Situation #1: I think my partner’s behaviour constitutes intimate partner violence. What are my options?
Talk to someone with an understanding of intimate partner violence, and explain the dynamics of what is going in your relationship. In Australia, there is a confidential telephone service available 24/7 called 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).
Reach out to trusted family and friends, but be conscious that not everyone will have the professional expertise to understand what you are going through.
If you are a woman in NSW, you can also call your local women’s safety service, called WDVCAS’s on 1800WDVCAS (1800 938 227). They will talk to you more about your safety and wellbeing, and discuss your options.
Every person’s situation is unique. There may be other supports including legal advice, or victims’ support and trauma counselling.
Situation #2: I’ve decided to talk to the police, however I’m sensing I’m not being made a priority.
Police in all states and territories now have operating procedures for how they must respond to domestic violence related incidents. All Police Officers must receive specific training in responding to these matters.
Most of the larger police stations will also have specialist domestic violence police officers. In NSW, these are called Domestic Violence Liaison Officers (DVLOs).
If you feel as though you are not being made a priority, request to speak with one of the specialist domestic violence police officers. You can also contact your local women’s safety service, WDVCASs in NSW, to request that they assist you in advocating with the police on your behalf.
Situation #3: I’m preparing to give a statement - to police, legal help or other service personnel. What should I do?
Obtain as much evidence as possible. Make a note of things that are happening, even if it is just a few words on paper or your phone using an app like SmartSafe+, and take photos.
Remember that Police, lawyers and judicial officers operate on the basis of the evidence which is available to them, so the more information you are able to supply in the way of evidence, the more equipped they will be in assisting you to obtain the appropriate protections.
Whenever giving evidence, it is always preferable to have someone there to support you, whether this is a women’s safety service like WDVCAS or a trusted family member or friend.
Situation #4: Are there any pitfalls or things I should generally avoid doing?
Remember it is not your fault.
Remember that it will get easier. Reaching out for help in the first instance is an extremely courageous thing to do.
Ensure you obtain protections so that you can have your safety enforced. In NSW, your local WDVCAS will be right there alongside you to support you.
To find our more information about WDVCAS, visit www.wdvcasnsw.org.au or phone 1800938 227.