”THE main message clearly is family and domestic violence can’t be tolerated.”
That was the clear outcome, Centacare south-west NSW chief executive Paul Jensen said, of a six-hour forum in Wagga on Wednesday that examined the issue of family and domestic violence from all angles.
The forum, organised by Wagga’s Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCAS), saw around 150 people come together at the Murrumbidgee Turf Club to discuss the issue, which has come into the national spotlight in recent weeks
Some of the topics discussed, Mr Jensen said, included the sense of male entitlement, which was contributing to Australia’s domestic violence epidemic, as well as options to “support men in non-violent ways to be assertive in relationships.”
“We’ve got to expand our understanding of what violence is,” he said.
“Violence isn’t just physical – violence can be economic, psychological (and) emotional.”
Mr Jensen said the issue boiled down to the “inappropriate use of power and control” and the community needed to reassess its view on those concepts.
Another key topic raised was the effect of family violence on children, which Mr Jensen said needed a renewed focus.
WDVCAS co-ordinator Helen West, who played a key role in organising the forum, said extra support needed to be available for children in violent family situations, who were often left defenseless.
Mrs West said the concept of a ‘flight or fight’ mechanism was often talked about in relation to dealing with domestic violence, but this wasn’t an option available to children in many situations.
Tackling the issue required the community to work together to change attitudes, Mrs West said following the forum.
“If we work together, we can help a lot more people,” she said.
“If we haven’t got the service, we need to lobby government.”
Mrs West said she would like the link between mental health issues and domestic violence incidents to be examined, given the stigma surrounding the issues.
She questioned whether some cases of mental illness in victims of domestic violence, arising after incidents, were being misdiagnosed.
“Maybe it’s a label that’s been given before a treatment is tried,” she said.
If you are suffering from family or domestic violence, help is available from the Domestic Violence Crisis Line by phoning 1800 656 363.
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