Women’s experiences of help-seeking for DV in the ACT (2016)

This research sought to explore women’s experiences of seeking help for domestic violence (DV) in the ACT.

Here is a video marking the launch of the report into the research findings:

Seventeen women participated in the research via in-depth interviews or a focus group discussion.

The results of this study add depth of understanding to women’s lived experience of seeking help for DV in the ACT. The findings echo that which has been documented in earlier research, policy reviews and consultations, while for the first time bringing ACT women’s voices to the discussion.

Through listening to the women’s stories three key findings emerged.

  1. Current formal responses to and the community’s understanding of DV are overly oriented toward physical violence. This can make it difficult for women experiencing non-physical forms of violence to receive appropriate help and support, and can sometimes mean that women do not even recognise that what is happening to them is DV.
  2. There is room for improvement in the way systems hold perpetrators of violence to account as a means of improving the protection offered to victims.
  3. The type of support that is offered should be appropriate to whether a woman is still in a violent relationship, is leaving that relationship, or is rebuilding her own and her children’s lives.

The stories also tell us about what works well. The high regard that many of the women had for specialist domestic and sexual violence services and other women’s services shows the necessity of service providers with specialist knowledge and expertise of this complex social phenomenon. But it is also true that there needs to be investment from all parts of the ACT human service system, workplaces and the general community in identifying and responding to DV.

The findings also reinforce that responses for ACT women leaving DV will only be effective if they are mapped against what victims are actually saying they need, rather than requiring victims to fit within the current system responses. Such tailored flexible responses will enable the right services to be offered to women based on the type of violence they have experienced, the point they are at on their journey, and their specific individual needs. Tailored flexible responses will be a good investment for the ACT, as they will minimise the likelihood of women needing to access services over the long-term.

Most of all, the stories presented throughout this report are a testament to the resilience and insight of survivors of DV. WCHM hopes that their insights and suggestions will help to inform the work already being done within the ACT to improve the responses to domestic violence.

The results of this research have been published in the report Hear me out: Women’s experiences of seeking help for domestic violence in the ACT.