It’s important to remember that domestic violence is a local issue and is happening in our community.
There are social, economic, cultural and legal complexities of domestic violence that often leads women back to their violent partners.
Economic: limited to no access to resources such as food and shelter
Social: seeking help for LGBTIQ individuals can be even more difficult as they are confronted by a mostly cisgender heterosexual support sector
Cultural: diversity of language, religion and cultural practices increase difficulty to access support
Legal: for women who have partnership visas their right to services are undermined if their partner suspends support of their visa. Ultimately isolating these women from any social, financial and legal supports in Australia.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend ‘It Takes Strength’, a panel discussion about domestic violence support systems and issues in the Brisbane area. Hosted at local community book store Avid Reader, the message that domestic violence exists within the Brisbane community was profound. Both anecdotal and research evidence was brought forward by an excellent panel consisting of Beata Ostapiej-Piatkowksi (Manager of Mercy Community Services), Yasmin Khan (Eidfest Community Services), Belinda Cox (Brisbane Domestic Violence Service) and Melissa Gampe (Griffith University researcher). Reminding us of the shocking but not unfamiliar vulnerability to violence is the statistic that on average one woman a week dies at the hand of her partner or former partner in Australia. The impact of these crimes are wide spread as Belinda Cox emphasised explaining that last year Brisbane Domestic Violence Service assisted 4000 women in the Queensland area and that each of those women had family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances that stretched right across the community.
Aligning with One Woman values of intersectional feminism Yasmin Khan and Beata Ostapiej-Piatkowksi spoke specifically to the additional difficulties faced by women of different cultural backgrounds. Their stories and discussions revealed that within some cultures and traditions violence in relationships is a silent and unspoken experience making it almost impossible for women to seek help. This can be exacerbated by family pressures to remain married or the visa implications of separating. These elements as well as language, understanding and tolerance can further isolate women from traditional services in the community.
Continuing to demonstrate an intersectional approach to this issue was Melissa Gampe who is researching the impact of intimate partner violence in same sex, bi-sexual and trans relationships. Melissa explained that a lack of knowledge of the LQBTIQ group within the wider community adds an additional dimension of isolation from law enforcement and traditional support service providers. Partners can use their sexual identity to threaten and intimidate making it even more difficult to leave.
These experiences represent a complex web of cultural, economic, social and legal factors that effect women suffering abuse in the Brisbane community. The panelists widely agreed that the key to changing these experiences lies in more funding for services, increased availability of specific services for women from different cultural or gender backgrounds as well as more education for service providers and the general public.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence you can call the Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 811 811 or Eidfest Community Services on 0419 025 510. Additional information for the LGBTIQ community can be found at http://www.anothercloset.com.au/.