An excellent and highly educational op-ed – For many women, ’tis the season of fear, not joy
A combination of financial strain, families spending more time together, and increased alcohol consumption contribute to the rise in figures.
In NSW, police responded to more than 5000 domestic-violence related complaints over the December 2009 to January 2010 period.
Longitudinal crime trends also indicate that domestic violence cases increase dramatically during the hotter months — peaking over the Christmas period.
It is timely then, that this month NSW Minister for Women Jodi McKay launched a new website to offer information and practical support to victims of domestic violence and their supporters.
While not its primary function, the layout of the website also offers people who haven’t experienced domestic violence a powerful insight into the lives of those who have.
On each page there is a link titled “Exit this site NOW”. The site instructs users to “click on this button if anyone (particularly your abuser) enters the room while you are using this website. It will close this website and redirect your browser to a neutral page. Abusers often use ways of controlling or monitoring their victim’s actions, which can include their online activities.”
There are also instructions on how to clear a computer’s internet history for victims who fear that their abuser may harm them for seeking information or help.
The website also contains a page on what victims can do if they are worried about their pet’s safety. Research shows that 70 per cent of female domestic violence victims say that their abuser has threatened to, or has actually harmed a pet.
I hadn’t known that the RSPCA, in conjunction with the NSW government’s anti-DV program, now has a “Safe Beds for Pets” program, where people trying to leave their abusers can find free temporary accommodation for their pets.
The website offers cybersafety advice for those who have left an abusive relationship as well as meatspace advice for how to make it difficult to be traced – change your email/social-networking passwords as well as your mobile phone number, get a PO box number for your bank statements etc. Given that so many abusers work insidiously and assiduously to isolate their victims from their pre-existing social support networks, and to keep them away from any new social support networks who might validate the abused person’s perceptions of behaviour as truly abusive (in contrast to the abuser’s narrative of being provoked beyond bearing by the victim’s incompetence/worthlessness), being able to safely find advice online can be crucial to the safe escape of the abused along with the children and pets that their abuser is trying to hold hostage over them.
Despite the title of the op-ed (probably not Funnell’s choice) the website is very clear that domestic violence can happen to anybody and is not perpetrated only by partners, or only by men.
A person does not need to be married for it to be considered ‘domestic and family violence’. It can be perpetrated by a partner, family member, carer, boyfriend or girlfriend.
The website has taken special care to meet web accessibility standards as well.