Gender-based violence can have a devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities. And it’s incredibly common: 1 in 4 women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15.
We know that standing together and taking action can be an effective way to prevent and address this issue.
That’s why we partnered with the Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre (WAGEC), a grassroots organisation on a mission to end gender-based violence. As of March 2023, we’ve raised an incredible $93,450 to support women and families in crisis.
Director of Fundraising and Communities at WAGEC, Chloe Sarapas says, “Educating ourselves and those around us on healthy relationships, red flags, and early signals of gender-based violence and domestic abuse is one way to make a difference.”
So, we’ve created a guide on understanding what gender-based violence is, the red flag to look out for as well as practical steps you can take to support loved ones in crisis.
What is gender-based and domestic violence?
Gender-based violence (GBV) and domestic violence is a complex human-rights violation that affects women around the world. At its core, it’s rooted in the assertion of power, often patriarchal power, as a means of gaining and maintaining control over someone based on their gender identity.
Gender-based violence can manifest in many forms, including physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse.
This type of violence can be hard to escape. Even when temporarily separated from a partner, almost 40% of women continue to experience violence.
The statistics can be alarming, but they highlight the need for increased awareness, education and action. Learning how to be an effective ally is a powerful step forward in helping to change the outlook for women and families.
What are some of the common signs of domestic violence?
“Knowing what signs to look out for gives us the capability to reach out for help when we need it, and to offer support to loved ones when we suspect they may need it,” says Chloe.
“Building knowledge and understanding allows us to build safer futures for women.”
While every relationship is unique, WAGEC has compiled a list of common warning signs and red flags that can indicate an unhealthy dynamic.
Gender-based violence may look like a partner pressuring someone to do something with their body or dressing in a way they don’t want to.
Jealousy can be another red flag, especially when it manifests in extreme ways, such as jealousy that results in isolation. This might look like a partner limiting time spent with friends or family, or even controlling someone’s use of social media.
Other signs of an unhealthy relationship include using money as a way to maintain control. This might look like someone needing a partner’s permission before they spend their own or shared money.
Unexplained bruises and marks on their body, a dramatic change in behaviour, or unexplained property damage such as holes in the wall can often be warning signs of gender-based and domestic and family violence.
If a partner is limiting someone’s expression of culture or religion, this is also a common red flag to look out for.
Warning signs might also present themselves in the way a couple approaches fertility or takes care of the children in the family. Abusive partners often make it difficult to care for a baby or dominate the decision-making around reproductive issues.
These tactics are used to scare the victim-survivor by harassing or even using the legal system to bully or intimidate them. Perpetrators often seek to dominate all aspects of their partner’s life, making them feel trapped and presenting challenges that make it difficult for them to leave.
Understanding these red flags can help you become a better ally, know when to seek help, and help put an end to gender-based violence.
5 practical ways to support someone navigating domestic abuse
Noticing red flags is the first step in identifying when someone might be in a violent relationship.
What comes next can be challenging.
It’s important to approach the situation in a supportive and respectful way that prioritises the safety of the victim-survivor. Educating yourself on navigating this situation is the key to a successful outcome.
“Equipping ourselves with the language we need allows us to build confidence to speak out when things don’t feel right in our own or loved ones’ relationships.
Simply having the right words to validate how we are feeling, or back up gut intuitions can make a huge impact,” Chloe says.
The WAGEC team has compiled a list of five practical steps you can take to be an ally for someone navigating gender-based violence:
- Recognising the red flags of an unhealthy relationship is the first step.
- Responding is the most challenging step to take. Remember to use a combination of asking, listening, documenting, and offering support.
- Reassure the victim-survivor that the violence is not their fault.
- Respect the decision they make. Allowing them to regain a sense of control over their life.
- Refer them to support services such as 1800 RESPECT or WAGEC.
The most important thing to remember is that there is no one-size-fits-all way to approach these situations. That’s why educating yourself is so important.
If you’re concerned about someone you know, remember these tips to be an ally: believe them when they share their experiences, ask what you can do to help, and let them know you’ll be there for them when they need someone.
While it can be a challenging situation to navigate, knowing how to recognise the signs of unhealthy relationships and take action to support those affected can be a great way to take action against this pervasive issue.
If you’d like further information on how to be an ally, check out WAGEC’s comprehensive resources on ending gender-based violence.
If you or someone you know needs support in Australia, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit wagec.org.au