It is often a secret women do not share and just telling their stories can be difficult.
But 20 women living through domestic abuse have opened up on their experiences for a landmark study into Peel’s family violence, which is shining a light on the extent of the problem.
One woman told researchers: “He’s poured petrol on me more than once with a lighter”.
“I was fighting with a lighter and he’s hit me with brooms and broken my arms and hit me with guns and held a loaded gun to my head,” she said.
Others spoke of how hard it was to leave a violent relationship and the toll paid by their children.
The women are helping the local Peel Says No to Violence project understand the complexity of family violence in the region and build a community alliance to stamp it out.
I've still got holes in walls and doors and stuff so I'm just trying to go past it, but every now and then my head just won't.A Peel woman living with family violence
Led by the Peel Community Development Group (PCDG), Peel Says No to Violence was trying to understand how women seek help and then create a community network to help them find it.
PCDG board member Paddi Creevey said the research would help the alliance understand from women how best to help.
“The research has been really important to understand from people who have been affected by violence what are some of the things that come out of their experience that we can learn from,” she said.
Ms Creevey said the research showed women turned first to friends, family and colleagues when escaping violent relationships, but these people needed support if they were to help.
Nicci Lambert, a psychologist with Allambee Counselling, said it was significant to learn that women in violent relationships turned to friends and acquaintances before agencies or government services.
“So one of the implications for the alliance, is how do we help family, friends and colleagues become a resource to be able to actually respond,” she said.
“They want to help people understand what is available and to be better equipped with information to help them or point them in the right direction.
“The alliance would also try to create a deeper sense of compassion for people who are going through domestic violence.”
Jill Robinson, executive officer of Mandurah women’s refuge Pat Thomas House, said the alliance could help supporters of women to understand how difficult it was to leave a violent relationship.
“Everyone is there to support their friend or their family member,” she said.
“But then they say, ‘leave’ and they don’t realise what’s happening for that person when they can’t leave and people tend to wipe their hands of it because they don’t understand.”
Ms Creevey said the research also highlighted the impact of family violence on children.
“When you think about how traumatised those children are, if they don’t get the help when they need it now, that impacts their lives and the lives of those around them for a long time to come,” she said.
“So there has to be, if we’re serious about looking after children and keeping them safe then they have to be mentally, emotionally and physically safe.”
Peel Says No to Violence research – key findings
- Police responded to 2677 family violence incidents in the Peel region during the 2015-16 financial year, 12.7 per cent of all the incidents in Western Australia.
- The number of police incidents jumped by 16 per cent when compared to the year before.
- In 2016, more than 1100 women sought refuge from violent relationships at Pat Thomas House.
- Reasons women do not leave violent relationships include fear of violence, eroded confidence, desire to give children a stable family home, promises of change and being physically prevented from leaving.
Services available to assist victims of domestic violence include:
- Pat Thomas House: 08 9535 4775
- Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline: 1800 007 339
- Crisis Care Helpline: 1800 199 008
To report an incident related to family and domestic violence, call police on 131 444.
Victims of domestic violence in immediate danger should call 000.