Raising community awareness about the nature and impact of family violence

One woman was killed every 11 days, and one man was killed every 91 days by an intimate partner on average in 2022-2023 in Australia.1

Female intimate partner violence homicide victims are more likely to be killed during a period of intended or actual separation. 

In more than 2 in 5 intimate partner homicide cases children were exposed to the violence between their parents.

Domestic and family violence has, historically, been a “closed-door” family issue. 

Coercive control and other forms of domestic and family violence are more and more frequently being reported in the media following several high-profile cases, and tragic deaths. 

With this high level of reporting, and the criminalisation of coercive control, it appears that a deeper comprehension and recognition of the different forms of family and domestic violence is beginning to gather momentum. 

However, many victims of domestic and family violence are not aware that what they were experiencing was domestic and family violence. 

Are we failing to educate our community on the nature and impact of family and domestic violence? 

We, as lawyers, understand what abuse looks like. But do our clients?

It can be challenging for our clients to realise that they are victims of family and domestic violence.  

The Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce Hear Her Voice Report 1, Volume 3 discussed the critical need for significant community education prior to the criminalisation of coercive control.2

That report was released in December 2021. Coercive control was criminalised in Queensland on 6 March 2024. 

What have we done as lawyers, individuals and as a community to increase our awareness and understanding about the nature and impacts of domestic and family violence including coercive control between December 2021 and now?

As lawyers, we have introduced preliminary domestic violence screenings into practice, we are increasingly becoming more trauma informed in our practice, and we see the effects of family and domestic violence on a daily basis. We are so constantly exposed to the research and reporting of domestic and family violence, that we can often understand the signs upon our first meeting with our client. 

Our clients don’t receive the benefit of our exposure until they walk through the front door of our office.

To better protect future generations and victims of family and domestic violence, better community awareness and understanding about the nature and impacts of domestic violence is vital.

A common recommendation is the implementation of school-based education. 

We teach children how to practice safe sex, but are we neglecting to teach children about cultivating healthy and safe relationships?

A positive step is Respectful Relationships Education which involves specialised resources for schools and teachers to assist young people in developing emotional and social learning in self-awareness, self-management and risk and responsible decision making.

Legal Aid Queensland has just produced a webinar aimed at changing young people’s attitudes and behaviours towards violence against women. 

Within that webinar, they pointed to the Youth Advocacy Centre which is a Brisbane based not-for-profit organisation that has a mission to increase young people’s access to justice, both legal and social.

Within that service is their Domestic and Family Violence Legal Service open to both victim and perpetrator who are under the age of 18 years.

It is clear that we are taking steps to educate young people and the community. 

Will the statistics drop?

Ruby Kelly

1 https://www.aihw.gov.au/family-domestic-and-sexual-violence/responses-and-outcomes/domestic-homicide#separation
2 The Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, Hear Her Voice, Repot 1, Volume 3, page 408.