DOMESTIC violence rarely starts with an out-of-control bashing.
Instead it is often a long road of controlling, demeaning and threatening behaviour from men who claim to love their partners and wives the most.
Regional manager for support service at Emma House Domestic Violence Services, Pat McLaren, said domestic violence includes psychological abuse, social isolation and financial abuse.
She said women living within this environment often didn’t realise it was domestic violence.
It’s estimated Emma House sees between 350 to 400 women from the south-west every year but Ms McLaren said that number would be only the tip of the iceberg.
She said there would be a higher number of women who don’t access their services and are able to use other resources to escape domestic violence.
Ms McLaren said community attitudes needed to change and discussions about family violence needed to be out in the open.
“It’s like anything, in the ’40s and ’50s drink-driving wasn’t really talked about,” she said.
“Now it’s treated and recognised as a criminal matter. Men need to not turn away when another man jokes about giving their missus a bit of biff.”
According to the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, relationship violence does not take the form of a single incident.
The website states it is ongoing behaviour that gradually undermines the victim’s confidence and ability to leave the violent person. The severity and frequency of violence often escalate over time.
While physical violence may be the most visible form, others such as sexual, emotional, social, spiritual and economic abuse can be equally harmful.
Examples include isolating a victim from family and friends, controlling their access to money, diminishing their self-esteem, preventing them from practising their religious beliefs, and intimidating and threatening them.
Ms McLaren said in most instances the self-esteem of abused women was completely eroded.
“There can be a long road of put-downs before it ever gets violent,” she said.
“It could be things like telling the person they are the only person who could love her, or saying don’t go out with your friends, or ‘don’t wear that, other men will want you’.
“It’s controlling behaviour.
“They’re sucked in by clever men with love.
“I’d encourage them to go to police, the local court and access local services.
“You don’t have to live like that. “
n Anyone experiencing family violence should call Emma House on 5561 1934, the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service on 1800 015 188 or if in immediate danger call the police on 000.