A domestic violence assault is reported every three days in Mandurah but a victim turned-support-worker says this is just "the tip of the iceberg.”
Safe Woman Safe Family (SWSF) co-founder Tanya Langford, who said she had been in three serious domestic violence relationships, never once called the police for help.
“A lot of people don’t (call police) for a number of reasons,” she said.
“One, you know that if you go and get a VRO (violence restraining order), that s*** is going to hit the fan.”
....‘what are you going on about?’...‘he’s so lovely to other people though.'Mydi Robinson
Domestic violence victim and SWSF client Mydi Robinson echoed this belief.
“It is hard to be believed – if you haven’t got bruises on your face or broken bones...people think ‘what are you going on about?’ or ‘he’s so lovely to other people though,’” she said.
“It’s also embarrassing and shameful.
“Sometimes, you don’t even realise how bad it was until you get out.”
Mydi said she has been in violent relationships in the past and escaped to refuge accommodation a handful of times.
“In one relationship, the police told me I had to get out because he was going to kill me,” she said.
Screams of help unnoticed
Another SWSF client, Pina Della Posta, said she escaped a psychologically abusive relationship with her four children.
The interior designer said her relationship was plagued by her former partner’s drug and alcohol abuse.
“It all went downhill very quickly,” she said.
“Nobody is immune to domestic and family violence.
“There is an assumption that it only happens in the lower socio-economic sector of the community, which is completely false.
Women just aren’t being protected.Pina Della Posta
“There are women who are filled with shame and are suffering in silence.
“They are threatened with homelessness if they leave their abuser.”
Pina said getting a higher income meant victims were not as likely to receive government assistance and may be “cut-off” if their partner does not disclose financial details.
“Since psychological abuse cannot be proven easily, it is really tough,” she said.
“There is a huge lack of understanding, education and awareness.
“Often the screams of help go unnoticed - until it is to late.”
Pina said there were misconceptions about the help available to women experiencing domestic violence and the police “had their hands tied”.
“Everyone says there’s a lot of help, but in reality, there is not,” she said.
“I’ve reported breaches on my restraining order, which were very cut and dry, but sometimes they can’t do anything because there is ‘insufficient evidence’.
“The police are trying to do their job but there’s not enough evidence to have the perpetrator charged.
“Women just aren’t being protected.”
Tanya said domestic violence came in different forms including emotional, psychological, financial and physical.
“It’s very much about isolating the woman,” she said.
‘Traumatic’ court process
All three women agreed the court process was “the most traumatic experience”.
Tanya said being in same room as the abuser was “horrible”.
“You’re very vulnerable, having to be in that room,” she said.
“The longer you’re around them is just more traumatic.”
Pini said many women do not report incidents of violence because they cannot bare to go through the arduous court process.
Mydi said it had been a setback to her psychological recovery.
“You have to tell the story over and over again, so you can’t get over it,” she said.
“Then with a trial you have to have evidence, witness statements, everything.
“The amount of time that goes into it is ridiculous.”
The abuse cycle
Tanya said people were more likely to be victims in the future if they had been surrounded by abuse in the past.
“It is a cycle,” she said.
“Many women are likely to also re-enter abusive relationships.”
Tanya said the SWSF initiative attempts to pull women out of that cycle, with education and support.
“We want to build women up to create healthy boundaries, heal from the trauma and know their worth.”
- If you need help contact domestic violence support 1800 737 732 24 open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone at risk of or experiencing family and domestic violence or sexual assault.