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OPINION: Let’s find new ideas to end domestic violence

IS IT just me or does everyone think family violence is not easily understood?

Some family violence, we know, is about mental illness or substance abuse. It can also be the result of high stress situations, where one partner loses restraint.

But much more commonly, domestic abuse is about one person intentionally trying to control another.

The abuser is purposefully using verbal or physical means to oppress the other person, usually the one they claim to love most in the world.

The other confusing thing about family violence is you can't always spot it.

Strong, intelligent, seemingly self-assured people can be victims, abusers can seem perfectly kind and reasonable outside the home.

That was certainly the case when domestic violence visited my family. My family member never reported the abuse endured by her family, she suffered silently for years before finding the courage to leave.

She was one of the lucky ones too because her husband let her go and later sought help for alcohol abuse.

The Prime Minister yesterday announced $100 million in federal funding to help stop family violence.

It's good news but the truth is a lot of money has already been thrown at the problem.

Action plans, pilot projects, early intervention initiatives and law reforms have been rolled out since the 1980s and the uncomfortable truth is there has been no reduction in family violence.

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This year alone more than 63 Australian women have been killed by a current or former partner.

The number of reported incidents to Queensland police increased from 58 000 in 2011-12 to 66 000 in 2013-14 - equating to more than 180 incidents every day.

That's not to say the money has been wasted, a lot of it has been spent on protection and initiatives that work. What we need is hard data to confirm which schemes are the most effective. And we need new ideas.

In recent weeks we have heard talk of government issued panic buttons and extra police resources to ensure no-one reporting family violence is turned away.

In Victoria magistrates are calling for a dedicated family violence court that would include specially trained staff, separate waiting areas and full time counsellors and welfare assistance officers.

Some states are considering crime of family violence legislation. The Federation of Community Legal Centres has suggested legally binding mediation between victim and perpetrator.

We know child victims of violence believe aggression is a reasonable way to resolve conflict. Boy victims are more likely to abuse when they grow up and girls who witness domestic violence are more likely to be adult victims. And the cycle continues.

With the new money we need to be more practical, with more safe houses for victims, more options for law enforcement and more behaviour programs for abusers. But we also need to be more creative.

People in danger should call 000 immediately. Those suffering abuse can call DV Connect 1800 811 811.

Topics:  crime domestic violence family opinion


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