Why we need to talk about domestic violence and learn more

This story contains information about domestic violence 

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Silent Domestic Violence Memorial March.

The march is held each year to commemorate and honour the lives of those who have died in the last year through family and domestic violence related incidents.

In the last 12 months, 15 people died as a direct result of family and domestic violence in WA. 495 people in the last 30 years.

Kedy Kristal, Acting CEO, Women’s Council Domestic Family Violence (WA) said it was important that all parts of the Western Australian community appreciate the realities of how domestic violence occurs.

“Domestic Family Violence is not a series of isolated incidents or a result of a momentary loss of control, it is a deliberate pattern of behaviour.” Kedy said. “The perpetrator is not out of control, but they take control”.
The deaths are women, men and children and have been perpetrated by partners, siblings, or adult children.

Domestic homicides account for a quarter of all homicides in Western Australia. Most commonly this is women being killed at the hands of their partners. The deaths create a ripple effect which has an immeasurable impact on family, friends, and community.

Organisers of the annual march say stopping family and domestic violence is a community responsibility, and it starts with raising awareness, and acknowledging the problem, and recognising that no part of the WA community is immune.

Deborah Costello shared with OUTinPerth her personal experiences of a dysfunctional relationship that descended into violence and controlling behaviour.

For Deborah it’s taken several decades for her to feel confident speaking about her experience in the hope that sharing her experience will help other people.
Back when she first entered the relationship she wasn’t yet out to her many of her friends, or any of her family, something which left Deborah feeling isolated and unable to reach out for help.

“I wasn’t out, I wasn’t out to my family, I wasn’t out to my colleagues, I was only out to a small close group of friends.

“So, the relationship itself was pretty much a secret to a large extent.” Deborah recalled.

To get assistance for domestic violence people have to build up a courage to reveal that they’re experiencing it Deborah highlighted, adding that having to also come out to someone is a whole additional layer of anxiety and another burden to taking action.

With the benefit of hindsight Deborah says she can now recognise that there were signs that her relationship was not a healthy union, but at the time she and her partner were discussing the possibility of children and a long-term future.

“I think because I gave myself so much to this person, that the power imbalance was there quite early on.

“I experienced pretty much everything from physical violence, to threats of violence, or controlling behaviour, like who I could see, couldn’t see, gaslighting and extreme jealousy.

“They were paranoid all the time about who I was seeing and talking to, and who my friends were, there were constant put downs and criticisms and all that kind of stuff.” Deborah shared.

Asked why she continued with the relationship Deborah said it’s very easy to forgive someone when you’re in love with them and it’s not uncommon to write a narrative in your head to explain their actions.

“I became really good at compartmentalising the bad parts in the relationship, when those things were happening, and when things were nice, and you basically do what anyone would do, you focus on the positive aspects of that person’s personality, and when they’re nice to you.” Deborah said.

Eventually the violence Deborah was experiencing grew from being something that happened behind closed doors to occurring in public, but at that stage Deborah was still committed to the relationship.

“There was one time where something happened in public, where a guy obviously saw what was happening, and she actually had me by the throat pushed up against a tree, and I was just frozen, because it felt like it came out of nowhere, which it often does.

“This stuff does come out of nowhere. You’ll just be having what you think is a normal conversation. It can turn nasty, very quickly. You don’t even see the warning signs coming.

“This guy came up to me later and said ‘Are you okay?’ Immediately I just said to him, ‘Yes, I’m fine’, because he was a complete stranger, and what do you say? He was trying to do the right thing by checking that I was okay, but he didn’t have anywhere to go once I told him I’m okay.

“And obviously, I was just so embarrassed. I just felt so ashamed that someone had actually seen that happen in public.” Deborah said.

As time went on the violence waned but Deborah still lived with fear, constant put downs and paranoia. The turning point eventually came, Deborah describes it as a lightbulb moment.

“We were talking about having children together, planning how we would then plan out jobs and careers around that, and I said to myself, ‘What are you doing? You can’t possibly bring children into this relationship, into this environment. How can you subject them, or even take the risk that they could experience abuse or anything like that? Or even just be brought into a relationship that really wasn’t healthy?’”

Once Deborah realised she’d never want to bring a child into the environment she lived in, she asked herself why she was remaining in the relationship.

Her first step was to go see a counsellor and talk about what she’d been experiencing and start to work out how to start a new life.

Breaking up though was difficult, and because none of the couple’s friends knew why they’d spilt, many close friends were dismayed that their union was over.

“I sometimes wonder if some people knew but didn’t say anything.

“When I look back now, I think there definitely would have been some signs, and I know that there were times when I didn’t hide the bruises and maybe that was deliberate. Maybe I always wanted people to ask?” Deborah said.

“You get used to covering everything up but obviously there were some points, where I obviously did want people to know what was going on.

“Maybe people just didn’t know how to ask or didn’t know how to support you or whatever. Of course, they were friends with her as well so that made it hard.”

Deborah said she really wanted to share her story now in the hope it would empower other people. Whether that’s someone in a relationship who wants to take action, or someone who needs to help a friend.

Highlighting that domestic violence also occurs in the LGBTIQ+ community is also an important fact that needs more exposure.

“What people don’t understand is that violence and abuse, it comes in so many different forms.

“You can abuse and ridicule someone and do all of those things without physically touching them.

“You can really damage someone emotionally and psychologically from your emotional abuse and your psychological abuse and all of your controlling behaviour. It still brings up all the same feelings of not having control over your life.”

Deborah is now looking forward to joining the March in Perth to highlight the issue.

“It’s the 30th anniversary of the march this year. I feel like in some ways in this space we’ve come far, but we still have so much work to do.

“This march has been happening for 30 years, and there are still people out there whose attitudes towards family and domestic violence, and intimate partner violence are from another time. We really still need to do a lot more education!”

The 30th Annual Silent Domestic Violence Memorial March is at Supreme Court Gardens on Friday 27th November 2020 from 10:00am – 12:00pm. The event will include information stalls, a free morning tea, speakers and the march through the CBD.

Do you need assistance or support?

Police emergency services
Call Triple Zero (000) – to access to emergency services organisations.
Find out more.

1800 Respect
1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732 National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service for people living in Australia.

Kids Help Line
1800 55 1800
Australia’s only free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25.

13 11 14
Anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide can contact Lifeline.”

MensLine Australia
1300 78 99 78
MensLine Australia is a professional telephone and online support and information service for Australian men.”

Men’s Referral Service
1300 766 491
The Men’s Referral Service takes calls from Australian men dealing with family and domestic violence matters.

National Association of Community Legal Centres
02 9264 9595
Community Legal Centres provide free legal advice on domestic violence and family separation matters. The National Association of Community Legal Centres can be contacted for referral to your local Community Legal Centre.

Relationships Australia
1300 364 277
Relationships Australia is a leading provider of relationship support services for individuals, families and communities.

1800 184 527
QLife are a counselling and referral service for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people.

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