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Early signs of abuse not overlooked, Centacare warns its not just about physical violence

Trouble at home: Domestic violence is not just about physical violence.

THE first phone call to police came five months after her wedding.

The woman sobbed that her new husband had bashed her. He had pushed her head into a wall repeatedly. 

She said she didn’t require medical treatment but she was frightened for her safety. Could police please visit her? 

When police arrived at the couple’s upmarket home, the woman’s story had changed. 

Yes, she had called but she had overreacted.

She said she had exaggerated about her husband’s actions. The incident wasn’t really a big deal. 

She was sorry to bother police and she didn’t want to talk further about it.

Apart from the husband – a professional in a well-paid position – there were no other witnesses.

So, police left the house but their concerns were aired at a regular meeting that discusses high-risk domestic violence matters among important services.

Police are joined at the meeting by Centacare’s Domestic and Family Violence Services, Child Safety representatives, and Probation and Parole officers.

 “With domestic violence, we rarely hear of reports of violence so early into a marriage,” one Centacare practitioner said.

“We know that it happens but the partner is often very reluctant to raise it so early. Women are sometimes in shock and also not willing to believe that their marriage will be this way.

“There is an element of denial which is completely understandable.

“We often work with victims who have been in marriages for a longer time but by then there can also be children involved which presents its own challenges.”

In the case of the newly-married couple, Centacare’s practitioners knew the dangers of the physical violence. 

But they also focus on non-physical violence that includes “gaslighting” behaviour where perpetrators use manipulation and control tactics to create self-doubt and insecurity in their victims.

“We will see cases in which the abusive partner plays mind games,” the Centacare practitioner said.

“Gaslighting can make a woman think that she’s losing her mind.  

“We have seen this type of behaviour too often in relationships – it’s not just about the physical violence.” 

Non-lethal strangulation continues to emerge as a discussion point at the high-risk case meetings.

Strangulation, while violent, has been labelled the “invisible injury” because its physical effects are not always obvious.

“These meetings are excellent for information-sharing and to co-ordinate high-risk responses across the service system,” the Centacare practitioner said.

“Strangulation is a topic that we continue to discuss because we’re learning more about it and the information-sharing helps with all services to respond more effectively.”

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