Domestic violence survivor calls for action

BADGE: The White Ribbon Oath is taken by men who promise to speak up whenever domestic violence is happening. White Ribbon Day is on Saturday.
BADGE: The White Ribbon Oath is taken by men who promise to speak up whenever domestic violence is happening. White Ribbon Day is on Saturday.

Domestic violence has many forms and one woman is campaigning for greater recognition of the impact of non-physical abuse.

Claire, not her real name, agreed to talk about her oppression for 20 years at the hands of the man she once loved.

She is speaking out to draw attention to what she says is the frequent cases of domestic violence in country areas.

But burning most fiercely in her heart, is the need to recognise that non-physical abuse can take as much toll as the physical forms of coercion.

“Mental cruelty can take the form of yelling, isolating you from friends and family, threatening you, controlling you and being constantly critical of you,” Claire said.

“It is a shock to me that the worst form of domestic violence has the least penalty.

“There are a lot of people out there going through this. They don’t even know it.

“They should not have everything in joint names. They need to keep their independence.

“I am speaking out to influence other women, potential offenders and legislators.”

She said that during her marriage, she was physically assaulted as well as subjected to emotional intimidation.

“You don’t know that all this domineering behaviour is actually domestic violence,” she said.

“They describe it as a frog in boiling water – it intensifies gradually to breaking point.

“One of the things they do is put you down in front of other people. It destroys your self-esteem.

“You can’t leave because you are fearful and have nowhere to go. And why should you?

“I don’t believe it is possible for police to charge offenders with committing non-physical abuse.

“It is a problem. So, decades of suffering by victims go unpunished.”

Legal services manager with Victim Support Service Debra Spizzo said a victim of physical abuse could receive compensation under the Victims of Crime Compensation Act. But she said there was no award for damages for a victim of non-violent abuse.

The law does offer some other remedies to victims of non-violent abuse.

These remedies include the ability to proceed to court for a private intervention order to protect oneself from such acts of abuse.