Stemming the effects of violence
25 November 2020
November 25 is the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. As well as the immediate dangers experienced by those who face family and domestic violence, there are often a range of devastating flow-on effects, such as poverty, homelessness, and mental health struggles.
Today, for the first time in many years, Stacy* feels like she has a safe home and a steady job. She is rebuilding her life, but it has been a long and complex journey.
Stacy first presented to The Salvation Army several years ago, needing immediate accommodation and support after leaving a situation of family and domestic violence. Although she had maintained her long-term job, she was struggling with high levels of anxiety and panic attacks.
As her mental health continued to decline, she was forced to leave her job and was hospitalised twice. Stacy was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
With the support of her Salvation Army case manager and the acute care team at the local hospital, she was linked into a counselling program and connected with a psychologist.
And while Stacy’s mental health gradually began to improve, her battle was far from over.
Once a final court hearing was completed, Stacy felt strong enough to begin sorting through her mounting debt levels – debts she had accrued because her husband had forced her to take on loans in her name.
With the financial pressure also adding to her level of stress and anxiety, Stacy was referred to a local community legal centre where she was told her loans would be cleared because of the coercion.
Stacey was feeling stronger and determined to move forward in her counselling and therapy. She reconnected with caring family members and enrolled in a Certificate III in Business Administration at TAFE. Upon completion of the course, she secured casual work with a local company.
She was also supported into affordable, stable housing and says, since moving in, she finally has a sense of security.
Salvos offer victim-survivors long-term support
Stacy’s service manager Dianne* says that while timing varies, many women are supported for around two years to deal with the flow-on effects of family and domestic violence.
She says: “It can be a long and difficult journey.”
Secure housing in a suitable area is a priority, but then layers of service and support are “wrapped around” to work through a range of issues and needs.
“When somebody comes to us, they may have left the violence, but they often have a deep sense of shame and self-blame. When you have been told you are worthless and stupid for so many years, you tend to believe that narrative. It can take a long time to work through that,” Dianne says.
“It is also quite common for women to have been forced to take out loans or accrue debt for a partner, and many leave with no money of their own. Then there is homelessness, loss of family and many more flow-on issues.
She says that living with constant fear, often for years, also takes a terrible toll.
“Many have been in a situation where they’re unsure every moment what is going to happen (in terms of violence and abuse) and so are on high alert all the time. That sense of being unsafe doesn’t go away for a long time. It is even more complex when children are involved because not only is the woman needing to unpack her own trauma, but the children are often traumatised as well.”
Fighting for change
Family and domestic violenceis the primary reason behind women and their children seeking Salvation Army homelessness services. Our data shows that 49 per cent of single parents are homeless due to family violence and two in five children became homeless because of family violence.
The Salvation Army family and domestic violence services were, and continue to be, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, providing more than 35,000 sessions of care between January and June 2020. This was 500 sessions more than the same period last year.
The Salvation Army also advocates strongly to Commonwealth and state members of parliament, community leaders and the wider community to help eliminate violence against women. We know from experience the grave impact that violence has on the health, wellbeing and lives of thousands of women and children on a daily basis.