Domestic violence is a menace that has plagued our generation. Although it stemmed from time immemorial, it has gained more popularity in recent times due to its prevalence in the media, particularly abuse against women and girls.
The prevalence of domestic violence prompted well-meaning individuals to introduce the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a global campaign to raise awareness about violence against women and its impact on a woman’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being.
The campaign begins each year on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25) and ends on International Human Rights Day (December 10).
Both dates highlight violence against women as a human rights abuse and community members and organisations are encouraged to coordinate or participate in an event to unite in the struggle to end violence against women.
Brookwater’s VM Family Law firm director, Katherine Manby said it was always important to highlight the issue of domestic violence and to educate women and families about their rights and options when in crisis.
Mrs Manby said, “Often women in DV relationships have lived with years of being emotionally and financially controlled and can’t see a way to leave the relationship because they don’t believe they can survive without their partner”
“They also live in fear that if they leave they will lose their children, so this tied in with the conditioning mentioned above means that the women are often too fearful of leaving.
“That means they feel terrible if they have no money and no accommodation and believe they are at risk of being seen as a terrible person and are at risk of losing the children.”
Logistics and safety were also contributing factors to preventing women from leaving a domestic violence situation, particularly when finances were an issue and they had small children to care for.
“Finances and accommodation are often the first practical difficulty and I would imagine overcoming their fear and reliving their story to a number of different organisations when seeking help would also be an issue,” Mrs Manby said.
“A person leaving would need to speak with so many different places to get help with finances, accommodation, counselling, legal assistance etc. and each time, they have to tell their story they relive the trauma.
“From experience the financial issues are the one of the hardest to overcome initially and you can have women with children relying on organisations for food and accommodation, whilst the abusive person continues to reside in the home and have access to all the property.
“Statistics also show that women face an increased risk of being killed or seriously injured after leaving or attempting to leave the abusive partner and is the most dangerous time for the victim.”
Mrs Manby stated that it was therefore imperative anyone in a domestic violence situation sought help whether it be through legal aid, a family lawyer or a domestic violence support agency.
“The benefit of seeing a lawyer- sometimes prior to them leaving the relationship- allows victims to get advice how best to protect themselves, both physically and legally,” Mrs Manby said.
“Sometimes, it is possible to have the offenders removed from the home so that the victim and the children do not need to leave the home which can assist with a number of the difficulties I have talked about.
“My law firm is a bit different to other firms in the area given the high amount of pro bono work we are prepared to do and we often get referrals from DV organisations where urgent applications need to be made.
“A lawyer ought to be able to help the client get a Protection Order to protect them and their family, link them into safety organisations to safety plan and then assist them with any parenting orders or property settlement that is required.”
During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, people around the world use the time to further raise awareness about the prevalence and devastating impact of gender violence and to celebrate victories gained by the Women’s Rights Movement.