From the Inside Out

It’s not everyday you read the confessions of someone who brought a taboo out of the darkness and in to our everyday. So when you do, you know you’re in for treat.

Last Saturday’s article from journalist Martin McKenzie-Murray in The Saturday Paper was a riveting dissection of the inner workings of how Ken Lay, when Commissioner of Victorian Police, brought domestic violence to the nation’s consciousness.

As Lay’s speechwriter then advisor McKenzie-Murray had access to frontline services, ample of data and explanations to the many complexities of defining (and combating) domestic violence. As an advisor that was all part of his job but as a journalist he was privy to information not widely known.

If you poke around my blog long enough you’ll see I write a lot about domestic violence and violence against women. It’s not an obsessive thing, it’s just one of those subjects that very few journalists can actually ‘specialise’ in.

It’s complex, requires time and lots of research. Like McKenzie-Murray I’m privy to lots of information on this. I volunteer as a board member for a domestic violence crisis service. Any given month after a meeting I walk away with a clearer understanding of the complexity of any one aspect of this crime.

Often I have more questions to ask and new stories to write. However unlike McKenzie-Murray I don’t have access to police data. What I have access to is skewed because the majority of women who reach out to frontline services often don’t have any other means to escape the violence.

While police data can provide a more rounded view of domestic violence it too is skewed in its own way.

Heidi Ehrat is the South Australian Coroner’s Researcher whose focus is on the causes of deaths where domestic violence is a factor. In cases such as Zahra Abrahimzadeh the Coroner’s findings were clear, this was domestic homicide.

Then there are murder suicides like that of David Wyatt and his son Jakob. While this is domestic homicide there is a stronger link to mental illness.

Without someone imbedded in the Coroner’s office who is given the space, time and resources to dig deeper the evidence of domestic violence could go unnoticed. This could also be happening on the front line of police services. Data on the extent of domestic violence in our society is hard to track. So does that mean it is not an entrenched problem in our society?

Dr Sarah Wendt of University of South Australia’s school of social work in conjunction with researchers at Curtin University did a national call out for women who had experienced domestic violence. They wanted to know what were the long-term impacts on their lives.

Their preliminary findings covered off three areas – housing, employment and wellbeing. The first stage of their research found;

Women reported experiencing multiple types of abuse with emotional and psychological abuse being the most common. This was then followed by social then physical abuse.

Two thirds of the sample indicated domestic violence made it difficult to keep a job with a third saying they could not continue in their place of employment because of safety reasons.

When it came to housing during the period of domestic violence 50.8% owned their home, however, after leaving domestic violence only 13.4% owned their home.

You can read their full summary here.

After further examination Dr Wendt and her researchers found that only 10 per cent of respondents had accessed a domestic violence service.

You can listen to more of Dr Wendt’s interview and views below.

In his piece McKenzie-Martin posed key questions around poverty and domestic violence and rightly so. Yet what you will also find is that the deeper you dig the greater the complexity around this issue.