Today marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to raise awareness about domestic violence, a blight that has devastating effects on those involved, ranging from physical injuries and psychological trauma to homelessness or drug dependency.
And when children learn “hurt people, hurt people” that trauma can become a dark cycle that continues causing huge personal, social and economic impacts.
“It is passed on. It’s intergenerational because people don’t identify that trauma changes, shapes and moves and it presents differently in people,” Sydneysider Aiman Naba told 9news.com.au.
“Our parents are our protectors, they’re our guardians, they teach us.
“But unfortunately, a lot of parents from a lot of cultures experience their own trauma – it does get passed on to their children, but it might not look the same.”
Naba said domestic and family violence was prevalent and “normalised” while she was growing up even though it was well-known something was not right.
Parents in violent situations may unable to think long-term, instead focusing on meeting basic needs, which can impact children heavily, she said.
“It is very hard, often times emotional well-being gets overlooked and children’s welfare is neglected,” Naba said.
“We often don’t really think about how trauma is carried and people live with it daily, people aren’t able to address it.”
Now, she works at Marrickville Legal Centre’s domestic violence service to empower women and promote self-determination.
“I wasn’t inspired to go out there and tell people what to do but to put information out,” she said.
“To say ‘hey look guys, this isn’t right, I know you can’t understand the real damage these behaviours cause but they do hurt, especially the children and women’.”
Long-term housing for domestic violence survivors needed
For women fleeing domestic violence situations, it is not only finding support from services like Marrickville Legal Centre but it is seeking long-term housing.
Homeless Australia says only 3.1 per cent of people fleeing family violence in 2019-20 found permanent housing.
“A secure home is absolutely central to the safety of those fleeing family violence,” Homelessness Australia chief executive Kate Colvin said.
“Without a home, women and children must choose between homelessness and violence. This is not a choice anyone should have to make.
“We urgently need to expand the number of properties available to women to achieve safety.”
|2019-2020 (no.)||2020-2021 (no.)||2019-2020 (%)||2020-2021 (%)|
|People experiencing family violence||119,182||116,180|
|Needed long-term housing||39,408||39,680|
Breaking the cycle up to individuals
But Naba said it’s not only up to domestic violence services to break the cycle of generational trauma and reduce the prevalence of violence, it’s up to individuals.
“As much as there is a need for services like ours, there is also an imperative on community intervention,” she said.
Naba said generational trauma will be shifted when the community is “strong enough” to discuss uncomfortable behaviours.
“When you are isolated, it’s incredibly powerful to have someone reach out for a cup of coffee, a conversation that validates your experience, and provide you with some information that might help,” Naba said.
She said to make as many safe places in the community as possible for victims to come forward, to embed wellness efforts like checking in on friends in every interaction, and to raise awareness about “what trauma looks like”.
“We need to send a message for women to feel safe. The more people that engage, the better chance we have of addressing domestic violence as a societal issue,” she said.
Help is available from the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.