The topic of family violence is a hugely important conversation, but it’s certainly not a comfortable one. In Australia, 1 in 3 women will experience family violence in their lifetime with the number increasing to 1 in 2 women and children with a disability.
It can be hard to know what to say or do when faced with a situation where family violence may be happening, particularly when navigating the NDIS. Let’s take a look at what family violence entails and what you can do if you suspect it might be happening to you or someone else.
What is Family Violence?
In recent years, there was a shift in language away from the term ‘domestic violence’ towards the preferred broader term of ‘family violence’. Domestic violence suggested that it was violence at the hands of an intimate partner, but family violence encompasses any person who is like a family member to the individual. This could be a partner, child, blood relative or someone who plays a significant role in an individual’s life.
“Why does she stay?”
This is a question often asked when it comes to family violence. The answer is often more complicated than just walking out the front door. There are a lot of factors that will determine when and how a woman experiencing family violence can exit their situation – and these factors become significantly more complex when a woman has a disability or has a child with a disability.
For example, if a woman has a physical disability, it may be too difficult to leave due to her mobility aids or other medical equipment. Layer onto this the reality that a refuge or emergency housing is not equipped to accommodate people with disabilities – often women stay because there’s simply nowhere to go.
What to do if you suspect family violence is happening?
1. Ask direct questions
Asking someone “are you okay?” is a good start, but it may not be direct enough. You might like to be more specific and say: “I feel like things aren’t okay, are you currently in harm? Is there anything causing you harm or distress?” If you get “no”, don’t push, but offer solutions. Provide the number to a support service or offer to call on their behalf. Let her know that you’re there and ready to support her when she’s ready.
2. Understand that they might not be ready to make a move yet
When a person experiencing family violence feels safe and empowered to make the choice, they’ll move. But if it’s not the right time, continue to be present. When it’s the right time, have all the information ready and be prepared to act quickly.
3. For support staff, seek the assistance of your manager
If you work in disability services and something feels off about a situation, first observe and ask direct questions – and if you can’t do it, speak to someone who can. Seek the advice or support of your manager but know that it’s important to work through your own fears and educate yourself. Have the courage to listen to your gut and lean on the support of your manager or family violence services if you or your customers need assistance.
Where to go for help
At OnSide, we offer Support Coordination to people navigating their NDIS plan. It’s our role to connect the right support services to the right people, which includes assistance for family violence.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing family violence or its effect, there are services you can contact in your state, such as: