“I wrote my will because I didn’t think I would make it through the night.”
Steph* had just got out of an abusive relationship when she thought she found her “soulmate”.
“He was so loving and patient. He helped me a lot with getting over my abuse from my ex-partner.
“We had an argument. I left and went upstairs. I tried to leave and he took my phone and intercepted me.”
The abuse that followed resulted in Steph sustaining an acquired brain injury, along with a fractured neck and cheek and miscarrying.
The next day, Steph spent seven hours at the police station giving statements.
“The police [were] so inconsistent. I had my tapes sent to so many different police. I was misinformed. I got told one time that he got locked up for four months. Four days later he turns up on my doorstep. If he had killed me that would’ve been on them.”
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found on average one woman a week is killed by a current or former partner and one in six women has experienced physical or sexual violence.
Those most at risk of experiencing violence or abuse include pregnant women, indigenous women, young women, women experiencing financial hardship, women with disabilities and those who had witnessed abuse as children.
Natalie*, now 23, had experienced abuse from a young age. Her brother has multiple diagnoses regarding behaviour, such as atypical autism, and was violent towards her since her early teens.
Living in a regional area made it hard for her and her family to access any family violence services.
“There were no services [near us] that catered to teenage boys with abusive behaviours that also had disabilities,” she says.
“We tried counselling, psychologists, anger management, family therapy and specialists but we were turned away either due to costs or lack of staff equipped with the knowledge of teenage boys or people with disabilities.
“Due to his autism, travelling was out of the question since he would have meltdowns on public transport due to the travel time and inability to keep himself occupied.”
When seeking police support due to her brother holding a knife against her throat, Natalie found they treated the incident as “a silly misunderstanding”.
“I was told that ‘boys will be boys’ and was blamed by them. There were only threats towards my brother and no consequences other than a stern lecture.
“I believe the police force didn’t take the situation as seriously as they should have because all they saw was a disabled teen boy and treated it as a silly misunderstanding as opposed to a real threat to my safety.”
Amy* faced stalking and physical abuse from her partner. When reaching out for police help she found they were ill-trained to handle same-sex domestic violence.
“One time, the police laughed at me when I said it was my female partner. So, I said, ‘this is not funny,’ and got really upset and he actually hung up on me.”
Amy made five separate police reports for stalking and death threats but none of the reports were ever recorded.
“I applied for an intervention order and that’s when they told me they have no records of me contacting them. There was no trace of me and the police told me that they can’t do anything to help me.”
“There needs to be better police education on the types of family violence and removal of the victim blaming mentality or ‘boys will be boys’ attitude when dealing with these situations,” says Natalie.
“Police are supposed to serve and protect so proper protection and options should be put in place for situations like mine rather than neglecting them.”
Victoria Police says in an online statement on family violence that it “is here to help people in need and to uphold the law”.
“Victoria Police will act to protect people harmed by family violence, and to prohibit any more violent actions or behaviour from the person who has harmed their partner and/or family,” the statement says.
It lists the Triple Zero (000) emergency phone number and suggests that if English is not your first language, the service will connect you to an appropriate interpreter. It also lists other contacts including:
- Victims of Crime Help Line (7 days, 8am-11pm) 1800 819 817
- Victoria Legal Aid (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm) free telephone advice in a range of languages 1300 792 387
- Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre (24 hours) for women & children 1800 015 188 or 9322 3555
- Men’s Referral Service (Monday-Friday 8am-9pm) support and referral for men 1300 766 491
- Sexual Assault Crisis Line (24 hours) 1800 806 292
- Child Protection Service DHHS (24 hours) 131 278 and
- Housing (24 hrs) state-wide referral for emergency housing 1800 825 955
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of interviewees.