May is Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) Prevention Month, which aims at raising community awareness of domestic and family violence, and to send a clear message that violence will not be tolerated. This year, Access has partnered with 4EB and the Queensland Government to produce a radio documentary and communications campaign that aims to provide factual and practical information about common concerns associated with DFV, as well as positive models for recovery.
The documentary primarily focuses on culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people affected by DFV and documents their experiences, as well as insights from CALD community members, Access case-workers, psychologists and mental health professionals and leaders of CALD womens’ organisations.
Through stories of survivors as well as family, friends, professionals and colleagues who supported them through experiences of domestic violence, this multimedia campaign will challenge acceptance of DFV in the local community, and encourage those concerned about someone they know to seek assistance.
The hour-long audio documentary will be broadcast on Radio 4EB on the last week of May.
See the below excerpts from the documentary for preview on some of the stories that will be shared.
The project has been funded by the Government of Queensland, further information about Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month: https://www.communities.qld.gov.au/gateway/not-now-not-ever
Melanie* - Participant of Access Community Services DV Program
“The biggest obstacle is for victims to accept that they are living in domestic violence. Because you cannot oppose it on them, they think it is the normal way of life. You have to let them trust you, have to let you into their place, and you can talk to them. And slowly they open up, and they give themselves to you. That is when you, whether you’re their colleague or family member or however you know them, that’s when you can let them know all the avenues where they can go to get help. Confidentiality and trust is very important in these situations.
I am a woman, and a mother, and I feel for the victims as a mother and as a woman. And I help them whenever I can, if there are resources, like this DV prevention program arranged by ACCESS. Going to these workshops open up our ears and minds, about the possibilities where to go for help.”
Blaise Itabelo - Former Access Community Development Coordinator
“It is very hard for male victims to disclose what they are going through at home. From my experience they never talk to anybody about it. Usually they do not want to talk about it either. The one I know he talked about it because there was a problem with his visa and he did not have any other option. This is a problem of society, men are taught to be tough, men are taught to be strong, to be leaders. So when your wife is not treating you well you do not want to make that public. People will think you are not man enough and losing your dignity.
There is still that a challenge of equitable services for male and female when we talk about domestic violence. There is something we need to address as a community and in my view when it comes to DV it is just DV, whether the victim is male or female it is not acceptable. But when we put gender on it, it is usually female, so some men think domestic violence is a female problem and they don’t want to get involved. What they forget is that woman is a sister to someone, therefore a man should be involved, because it is either your sister, your mother, your friend, your auntie or your colleague. It is everyone’s responsibility. There should not be a gender attached to it, domestic violence is a problem that we all need to fight.”
Sharon Orapeleng - Mental Health Professional, Cultural Diversity Consultant
“I was ten years old when I was living in a home where domestic violence was recurring. And the person was beating my auntie. And as a child, a 10-year-old little girl, witnessing this woman being bashed, somebody I loved and I cared for. She had a little baby at that time, and she would give me this baby, somehow preparing herself for what was going to come. I would run out of the house and wait at the back of the house until I heard no more sounds. Her mum tried not to scream loudly, not to attract attention. Imagine that you lessen the harm by being complacent.
As a child, my auntie told me not to tell anyone, because she was ashamed, that people are going find out that she was abused. One day I tried to run to get some help, but I could hear her voice in my ears saying ‘Don’t tell anyone’. As a child I did not want to disappoint her, so when I arrived where help was, I did not say anything. When I went back home that day, I remember it so vividly, I said to myself that no one would ever stop me from saying something if I see it. I am going to speak out about it. That is still driving me today to say violence in the home is not OK, you can get some help if you are experiencing domestic violence.”
Iman Dakakni - Founder of DV Organisation “Me”
“If you are living in domestic violence, there are just two options for your life. Your life is going to stay the same with the abuser, your kids grow up and nothing will change. The second option is that it might get worse. But if you leave there are more options than that, which can be worse or better, but you have control over your life. I don’t think in any relation to culture anyone will be happy if women are suffering. God does not want you to suffer, or live with someone who hurts you so badly that you wish every night for him to die.”
Sheila Gonzalez - Settlement Case Worker, Access Community Services
Domestic violence for me means there is not a balance in the relationship. Meaning that one of the parties feeling fear, frightened, or unsafe because of the waz he or she is treated. All relationship should be balanced that both parties have the same rights, but in the case of domestic violence one of the parties became completely disempowered, but also devastated because of the way the partner tries to manage and control him or her. I personally agree with the United Nations definition (http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/48/a48r104.htm), that based on the statistics, most of the time it is from men towards women, a manifestation of historical inequality between the two genders, what roles are expected from them.
For some reason we find that men that did not use violence in their countries of origin, when they arrive to Australia, they feel that they have to take care of the family but at the same time the women are given tools to become independent have their own income, education options. Men start using violence in order to control and the exert power against women. This is their way to keep the family safe, following norms that are accepted in the culture back at home.
Rose Karlo - Chairwoman of African Australian Women’s Associaton
Domestic violence happens everywhere but in African culture it means something different. For example if an African woman is married with a dowry, also the family and the community are involved. So if something happens it does not only include the immediate family, the husband the wife, or the father, but it can include the aunts, the friends, the relatives, because they have been part of this relationship too, and they feel entitled to have their rights towards the woman. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but the same goes for the marriage in African culture.
Parisa Babazadeh Oskouei - Psychologist, Workshop presenter at ECCQ
From my experience, in psychological abuse cases, these people have home sickness which is common in new migrants because of settlement issues. At the same time, they experience psychological abuse, therefore sometimes victims confuse psychological abuse with their own problems such as home sickness. That causes them to think that they are the cause of the problem and not the abuser. The abuser already told them they are the sources of the problem, having anxiety, depression and that causes the abuser to behave in a violent way.
Fungisai Siggins - Health Program Officer HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and Sexual Health, ECCQ
These days a lot of people are talking about Domestic Violence, but people tend to hide it and pretend, so the community cannot see it. It is very important to be married in my culture, most women will struggle and suffer in their marriage, because of her children and because they don’t want people to know what is happening to them. Until it is too late, some will be dead, or having physical or psychological injuries. Domestic violence also happens in a financial way as well. Women in the diaspora are still obliged to support the husband’s family back at home because of the labola, the dowry. This expectation does not only come from the husband, but from his family, that a women’s income is the husband’s and his family’s income. Even though with today working women, the wives could pay back the amount of dowry within 3-4 months.
Nora Amath - Founder and Community Engagement Manager, Sakina Inc.
Sakina is not there just to meet your immediate shelter needs. ‘Sakina’ means in Arabic tranquillity, and this is what we offer, a tranquil place, where holistic healing begins and happens. Now that we have a little bit of funding from StreetSmart Australia, recognising that domestic violence plays a part in homelessness, we can run art therapy workshops and take our clients on outings. Little grants can go a long way to enrich our clients’ lives. Once the client leaves we don’t say ‘see you later’, we help them to settle, to have a pathway to employment or education, or housing. And we would also like to stay in touch with them.
Susan Almaani - Founder and Line Manager, Sakina Inc.
By chance I happened to overhear that this young girl had to flee her home because her life was under threat. She had contacted all the shelters she could get hold of and they were telling her that these places are not ideal for her to come, they are not safe for her age from a Muslim background, she could be exposed to drugs and alcohol. So they were literally telling her she would be better off , safer on the street. This is unacceptable in Australia and with other women from the community we decided to do something for Muslim women and for women from CALD backgrounds. We did our research and there was nothing that could accommodate the extra needs that they needed. A friend of our let us use her property and within two weeks the place was full. We had cases of human trafficking, elder abuse by carers, and pregnant sister from another state. And sisters were coming to this shelter from Sikh community, Buddhist and Christian communities as well.
Rhonda* - Participant of Access Community Services DV Program
Some victims of domestic violence expect, when they come to you as a service, that you will ask them about what they should do. They expect that people from their community should be involved. The legal process does not give many chances to victims to have the best options for them and their families. Which pushes them in to confusion: what should I do? If I do leave my husband and have a separation, the community will exclude me, the outcome probably won’t be the best what I wish.
* not her real name
Chantal Gallant - Project Coordinator, Access Community Services
People often don’t disclose at the prevention stages, only when police and refuge needs to be involved, so there is more reason doing more education to actually use the existing resources. Some people were given information, how to be legally divorce or separate with some kind of financial stability, but they haven’t made the decision to leave yet. We support women to make their own decision and encourage them on the way, to do what is best for them and their children. These people are not ready to go to a support service, but they disclose to a community member so at least they have the information where to go, and coached how to call 000 or DV Connect, if things get worse.
Bronwen Gray - Domestic Violence Unit Social Worker, Women’s Legal Service
Currently if you are on some kind of temporary visa of some sort, you will not be able to get any welfare payment from Centrelink. When you look at a woman who is deciding whether or not to leave a violent relationship not only does she face the same barriers as Australian citizens would, which is getting a DVO (Domestic Violence Protection Order) or the different court processes you have to go through, if you have children, finding new housing – she also have to face that probably she will be completely destitute and cannot rely on basic level of welfare support to fund her when she leaves. This is a really serious issue and we as a society need to find a new way to dealing with.
For free confidential advice about violence in the home, call:
DVConnect Womensline | Ph: 1800 811 811 (24 hours, 7 days a week)
DVConnect Mensline | Ph: 1800 600 636 (9am to 12 midnight, 7 days a week)
If you are in immediate danger, phone the police on Triple Zero (000).