Domestic Violence Study: Women and Their Children Need to Stay In the Family Home
New research into domestic violence and homelessness has found that as many as one in two women who leave an abusive relationship will return to live with the perpetrator, sometimes returning five or more times.
Releasing the study to mark White Ribbon Day, Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor and Minister for the Status of Women Julie Collins said the research showed the need for innovative models of intervention that allow women and their children to stay in the family home while keeping the perpetrator safely away.
The Swinburne University of Technology study, Reducing the Need for Women and Children to Make Repeated Use of Refuge and Other Crisis Accommodation, was funded through the Gillard Government’s $11.4 million National Homelessness Research Agenda.
“In a wealthy and civilised nation like Australia, it is unacceptable that women have to return to an abusive home because the alternative is to sleep in their car with their kids,” Mr O’Connor said.
“It is truly disturbing to learn that up to half of all women who summon up the courage to leave an abusive relationship will return to live with the perpetrator, sometimes five or more times after fleeing.
“Sometimes they fear further violence, or their finances are too intertwined with their partner’s. Many women have no access to savings and without a job have no earing capacity.
“For some women, there is just not enough support for them to leave the family home, while for many, the prospect of being abused seems preferable to letting their children become homeless.”
The research investigated a number of innovative models across Australia and England which allow women and children who have experienced domestic violence to remain safely in their homes by excluding the perpetrator and providing a combination of housing, judicial and support services.
It advocates for these early intervention and integrated services, but says there is inconsistent service provided in each location and calls for more services to be established nationally.
The authors also call for collaboration between police and support workers to be a formal process and for a common risk assessment tool to be adopted throughout Australia to ensure consistency for women and children experiencing domestic violence across the country.
“The Government acknowledges that domestic and family violence continues to be a major driver of homelessness,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Our White Paper on Homelessness recognises the importance of reducing the incidence and impact of domestic and family violence and the need for further investment to support women to stay in their own home where it is safe and practical to do so.
“Under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, the Gillard Government and States and Territories are jointly investing $1.1 billion to reduce the rate of homelessness.
“More than 180 initiatives are being delivered under the Agreement, with 30 of these targeted at addressing domestic and family violence.
“I am pleased that my State and Territory colleagues have agreed in principle to negotiate a new long-term partnership, with interim funding to keep services open when the current agreement expires at the end of this financial year.”
Ms Collins said violence against women is a complex and multifaceted issue which requires whole of government action.
“Eradicating violence against women and their children is a key priority for the Australian Government,” Ms Collins said.
“The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 is a single, unified strategy that brings together government efforts to reduce violence against women, with a strong focus on prevention.
“We have committed $86 million to initiatives under the National Plan to improve the lives of women who have experienced violence, and most importantly to stop violence from occurring in the first place.”
The report’s companion study Homelessness prevention for women and children who have experienced domestic and family violence is also being released today by AHURI and is available at www.ahuri.edu.au/publications/p50602/