Eve shares her experiences with the police, the legal system, domestic violence support services and counselling when seeking help for Intimate Partner Sexual Violence (IPSV).
Belinda Cox works at a domestic violence service and talks about her work with women who have experienced IPSV and the process of supporting women to navigate the different service systems.
This podcast's contains information and stories relating to sexual violence and domestic violence against women and maybe triggering to survivors. I just thought, if I can do this, if I can, uh, you know, just put up with with this and make him happy, he will be a bit easier with the children. I guess it's all about trying to do what you think your role is. I spoke to the GP. I sort of broke down and was in tears and she said I really needed to see a counselor.Speaker 2:
I had no support for the first few days. They said, you can move somewhere in the sunshine coast or you can go to Brisbane. I said, yeah, as far away as possible, I'll moveSpeaker 1:
whenever I got injured. My regular GP never documented it, but the one time I did see a female doctor at the same practice she did and she was so good about it.Speaker 2:
The police officer was very logical and rational. He listened to me, gave me good advice and didn't dismiss me.Speaker 1:
This podcast is part of a series which were created by women with lived experiences of intimate partner sexual violence and workers in the field of domestic violence and sexual violence, intimate partner sexual violence, also referred to as ips fee can be difficult to define and for every woman who has experienced it, it can mean something different. For the purpose of these podcasts, we have come up with a definition that we hope is inclusive to all women and all experiences intimate partner sexual violence. Ips V is any form of sexual assault that takes place within an intimate relationship, whether the parties are married or not. It includes ripe the use of force, threats or coercion to obtain sexual acts, shaming and not respecting a person's sexual or physical privacy. All of these can be used to gain power and control over a partner within an intimate relationship. The information provided in this podcast contains no advice and gives general information only listen to should I act on the basis of any material in this podcast without obtaining specific expert professional advice about their own particular situation. Then under community support group incorporated expressly disclaims any liability, Hathaway back close to any persons with respect to any action taken in reliance to the contents of his publication. First we hear from Eve eve talks about her experience with the police and the legal system. Incident happened to me three and a half years agoSpeaker 2:
time. I was a senior professional with a small child. It was a one off incident with my ex partner, but it followed the end of a long running domestic violence situation. When it first happened, I was in shock because whilst I'd been exposed to domestic and family violence previously, this was sort of the ultimate pinnacle. I was quite taken aback that things had escalated to that point. It happened in the morning before work and I remember dropping my son to his daycare and when I got to work I wasn't in an emotional state to stay there, so I left collecting my son from daycare and sought advice from the police. My initial point of call was the police and I sought advice from them. They gave me some advice on what I could and should do and then later down the track I was referred to Brisbane domestic violence service who were absolutely incredible. They make my style house very safe and so they sent somebody around to ensure that they, it was um, in penetrable and they also provided me support to validate what happened so that I could make sense of it and also to give me some support to move forward. I also later sought support through the courts in relation to domestic and family violence. My experience with the police was very mixed. At first it was very negative, but I have to say that it did then turn around later to become very positive. My experience with the police, initially I was quite surprised. The first person I spoke to was a female police officer and when I explained what had occurred, she was really very shocked and she wanted to take immediate action against the perpetrator. Some of the advice she gave me wasn't very practical. She suggested that I left my work and my living arrangements for a month, which wasn't suited my situation, but she was nevertheless very supportive of me as a perpetrator. He was very charming and when she went to speak to him, he laid his charm on, denied everything and twisted the story to make it look like he hadn't perpetrated anything and that perhaps I had, which wasn't the truth. She then came back to me and suggested I just focused on parenting rather than putting in complaints against my ex. And um, that was very upsetting to me emotionally. And it made me really question the benefit of going to the police. However, later down the track when I continue to liaise with the police, they were absolutely incredible. They were very supportive. They provided the referral to Brisbane domestic violence service. And in actual fact, I had a police liaison officer who was a quite an old fashioned policemen and he cut through some red tape and he enabled me to get support immediately without a ton of paperwork and me needing to repeat the story over and over again. And in actual fact when I raised the issues with a more senior police officer from my initial engagement with the police, he gave me his number and said to call him if I had any further issues at any time. So I certainly in the end felt very supported by the police. I would still encourage anyone that goes through this to go to the police and I think that even in the three years since this occurred, the police have become far more educated and informed about this kind of violence and they are more likely to be supportive and understanding and the situation, I would suggest that even in the years since this occurred, um, there have been some significant developments in police training and awareness and in awareness around domestic and family violence. So I would suggest that police are probably more aware of the situation and better at handling it. So I certainly wouldn't let my story be a deterrent to people in going to the police if they had this occur in the future. I received support through a local community legal service. They were absolutely fantastic. I went to see them twice. Once was just to understand the situation, the process, what my rights were and the likely outcome. So they were able to point me in that direction and give me some assurance of what was to come. Because I think for me my greatest fear was the fear of the unknown. Having never needed to navigate this system before. I then went to see them for assistance in writing the affidavit. I'd never had to do anything like that before. It was wonderful to have that support and I feel like they were very generous with their time. They were very professional, but they were very compassionate as well and I felt like they were a very credible support to me. I went to the police in the first instance, I think that I'd arrived at work that day and someone had said, you really need to speak to the police about this. So I did. And really it was the police that supported me to point me in the direction of my local domestic violence service. They referred them to me and that's when the whole world of this opened up to me, I suppose. And before, I have no idea of the support services that were available to me. I would suggest that nowadays, that was several years ago, that there's probably more information available as the awareness of domestic and family violence has increased. But at the time that police pointed me in the right direction as well as the domestic and family violence service at the time I had quite a young child and I'm always concerned about how the exposure to what he'd seen may have impacted him, if at all. So I was very lucky that my domestic violence service actually had, um, a child psychologist on staff and I was given a session with them where I could talk about what to look for, if there are any warning signs of trauma, how to manage it, how to pave the way with my child moving forward to ensure that they were unscathed. And I'm very pleased to say that I don't believe there's any longterm damage to them whatsoever. I was hesitant to seek support at the time, simply because I really felt the stigma of domestic and family violence and how it might be if people in my professional and personal life found out what was happening to the outside world. No one really would have guessed it. I had some friends that were close confidence, but beyond that I didn't tell anyone. And because of what had happened had lost a lot of confidence and I'd been cut off from a lot of my social support. So the idea of going out there and taking a big step of actually acknowledging that this had occurred to me was huge. Over time, that's lessened. And I realize that I don't have anything to be embarrassed about because there's nothing that I've done that I should be ashamed of. But certainly looking back, the cultural side of things, working in a male dominated industry, being very white collar and just being inherently embarrassed, stood in my way of seeking support and certainly doing so in a way that anyone might find out. However, as I say, I've realized now that I don't need to feel shame and that I have every right to seek the support that I sought and I would encourage other people to go and seek the support, reach out to the people that you truly trust, make sure that you find a credible organization that you know will respect you and treat your story in the way that you want it to be treated, but put your needs first. These situations are so complex and often far beyond the reach of people that are likely to be in your friend and family circle that if you can find a credible professional organization to support you, then I believe that that's a very positive step to take. Having said that, I've been very open about the physical and the emotional side of the abuse that I endured. However, this is the first time I've ever spoken about the sexual side of it because I still feel that there's a huge stigma around sexual abuse and it's something that I wouldn't speak about freely in public because of that stigma. But as I say, I'm lucky that um, I feel that despite the stigma in my own mind, I feel a strong sense of recovery and that is largely due to finding the right support systems in place to help me on that journey. I have done, um, a lot of advocacy work around domestic violence and that's involved consultations, that's involved working in group settings and that's involved actually public speaking. And with all of those events I've spoken about the physical and emotional side of the abuse, but never the sexual side. A limited number of my family and friends know what happened. But I keep that to very close circles. I think in my experience, the delineation of the different support systems I went to see was quite clear. So I knew the police would deal with the breaking the law, the safety and those elements, the factual side of things and the repercussions in that way. I knew that the domestic violence service I saw, it was very clear at first from my first conversation with them that they were going to support me in making the house more secure and that I was going to work with the support worker who would provide some level of counseling or some coaching. And then they made it very clear that they were going to provide the services of a child psychologist with the community legal organization that I went to. That was for legal reasons. I knew exactly what their remit was. So that was very clear of their delineation of tasks. And then I went to see, um, a local community support center and they provided me with counseling. And again, I was very clear on what that service was going to provide before I even contacted them. So whilst I was unaware of the services that were available to me before the incident occurred, once I had engaged with the police and they'd referred me to the domestic violence service, I was very quickly aware of what services were available to me and what those services would deliver. And I suppose the other thing is that through my work with the domestic violence organization, I actually met other people that have been through the same situation. And in talking to them, I then uncovered other services that were available that I then utilized or have recommended to other people as well. I've told my story a number of different times to different people and it felt a bit like groundhog day. And particularly when something's traumatic like that, it's quite difficult to regurgitated over and over again. However, I knew that I needed to do so. And I think that I know that the system is trying to create a way that women don't have to repeat their story over and over again. But given the fact that the services are there to deliver different responses, sometimes I need to hit different elements of the story or different facts around the story so that they can do what they're there to do and deliver on what you need them to deliver. So whilst I can't pretend it was comfortable to repeat that story, I knew it was necessary to get what needed to happen done. I found that the different services would respond in different ways to my story. So the police were very factual and um, sometimes that was hard because I didn't feel as though it was a personal approach. Whereas the domestic violence service and the community organization really were very nurturing and supportive and very sympathetic to my situation and how difficult it was to explain it. And the legal service, again, I found very compassionate, the community legal organization because they're used to dealing with women that were in my sort of situation. So yes, it was difficult to repeat the story and I wants to really live that on a regular basis, but I knew that I needed to take action and it was worth going through that discomfort to get to where I needed to get to. In my experience. And I would like to say it's several years ago and I know that system since are trying to work together. It was really a process of referrals. So I don't feel that the police worked with the domestic violence service who worked with the legal service, who worked with the community service. However, each of them referred me to each other and because the information that I needed to give each one was quite different depending on the service that they were delivering in my situation, it didn't really matter that they weren't connected. My experience was quite varied in relation to domestic and family violence. There were several years of physical, emotional and mental violence, gaslighting and humiliation, a whole range of different things, and I was actually hospitalized twice as a result of the physical injuries that I sustained. Things went to a whole new level after a period of time and on one occasion the violence became sexual in quite a physical way. This to me was the pinnacle of the abuse and it took things to a whole new level. It was awful and it was degrading, but in some ways it made me realize that having lost all my confidence, it wasn't me where the problem lie because it was so extreme. It clarified things for me and crystallized the fact that this person had significant tissues and that I was ready to walk away. As a female who's been through this kind of abuse. I can say that I understand how difficult Lucy's, it's isolating. It's overwhelming, it's confusing and it's so complex. There's such a raft of emotions that somebody's going through. This may feel it and if you're listening to this podcast and you're going through this, then I'm very sorry. What I would suggest from someone that's been through it is that you go and find the support that you need and that you put yourself first. While speaking to the police is very difficult. I would use that as a first point of call because they are likely to point you in the right direction and refer you to the support services that you may need when you go and see the police. My experiences that they would ask me to explain why I was there at the front counter and I found that humiliating and embarrassing so you can always ask to go, so my private to discuss what's happened and the police officers should be able to point you in the right direction and give you the help that you need. I think that the police need to understand how hard it is for a woman to ask them about this issue and their response is critical. In my case, my first response from the police wasn't supportive and in actual fact it was almost as bad as the violation itself. However, anyone listening to this podcast that's considering going and getting support, please don't let that deter you from doing so. It is really important that you go and get the support that you need, however hard it is to do so. If you're a police officer or somebody else that works in a professional capacity where you're likely to receive reports of this occurring, please understand that the person reporting this to you is going through turmoil and it is likely to be the most difficult thing that they have ever had to do. So whilst I respect that you receive a lot of reports of this nature, probably please understand that each person is an individual with a very difficult story to tell. If you are a friend or family of somebody that's going through this situation, please let them tell their story and give them the space they need to explain what's happening and please don't judge them or try and force them down a path that they want to go. Just be there for them, be that trusted person and help them take the steps that they need to take to respond to what's going on and move on with their lives afterwards.Speaker 3:
We hope you've been able to take something away from Eve story. Now we hear from Belinda who works at a domestic violence service and talks about the process of supporting women to navigate the different systems. So my name is Belinda Cox. I'm the community partnerships program manager at Brisbane Domestic Violence Service where I've worked for around about 10 years. And prior to that I used to work at drug and alcohol service, specifically supporting women for five of those years and obviously for about 12 years old lap. So I've really worked to support women for a really decent proportion of my Korean in human services. I've worked with women who've experienced ips both in my current job working in the domestic violence sector out of DV service. I've been there for about 10 years and then previous to that I worked for drug and alcohol service and I did some specialist work around supporting women who have issues around their substance use and a lot of them also experienced intimate partner sexual violence as well. Some of the different systems that women commonly have to navigate when it comes to intimate partner sexual violence are quite varied depending on what sort of wrote they want to go down, but it can be dealing with police, it can be trying to seek support in regard to counseling. That can be systems in regard to primary healthcare such as hospitals. I think as well too, the those family systems as well can be really complicated and getting those supports too. So they're pretty varied for a lot of women. They don't necessarily know where to go or where to start or that the first place that they do start isn't necessarily helpful on referring them on to other supports that they need. When it comes to the variety of different systems or supports that Rehmann marinade or montcoal on when it comes to intimate partner and sexual violence in, I think in a lot of ways they don't necessarily work together as well as they could. What we do see is that there isn't a lot of communication and you'll have different areas coming from different philosophies. So sexual assault services obviously are experts and they tend to have really great respectful and trauma informed responses. And fortunately we don't always see that happening when it comes to perhaps beliefs for sometimes medical staff. And I don't think that there's an openness perhaps for the different systems to learn from one another. So I think that on referral has improved and I definitely think there is a little bit more collaboration. But in regard to the response, the consistency and the continuity of response from a trauma informed framework a die, I think that that is particularly across the board. I think when it comes to intimate partner sexual violence, the most difficult thing for women is actually getting someone or the respondent, if it's not a sexual assault expert to actually believe or for them to feel whether or not they will be believed. We know that intimate partner sexual violence is seen as very difficult to prove much more so than say if it was a stranger assault and those attitudes that can be really quite archaic around that husband has a right to have sex with his partner, his wife, under any circumstance. That's prevailing attitudes still sort of hang around and I do think that legislation and legally, and if they do decide that they want to go down that path, that's incredibly difficult. I think that they'd probably find that they were quite discouraged from feeling as though they would have a decent outcome and that it would be quite grueling. Additionally, there are also those systems where there can be an element of medical examination if proof is needed, and that's a really uncomfortable and awful thing for someone to go through who's already been experiencing sexual abuse and sexual assault as well. I think one of the things that's really problematic is our attitude towards what's a good outcome for someone that has experienced any kind of sexual assault or abuse, but particularly in the case of intimate partner sexual assault or sexual violence in that we tend to put the emphasis on there being a consequences such as a prison term or charges being laid as an outcome, and certainly that is the outcome that a lot of women do want to say. We look at that and we look towards restorative justice and people feeling that those outcomes make them feel more validated and that makes them feel more positive about what happened to them. I think though, some of that comes from external pressure where there's that real sort of, I Fran, I kind of mentality and that we shouldn't ignore the fact that for some people are good outcome doesn't involve that, that a good outcome is just finding one support service that assists them to either heal from what's happened or if they're still in this situation. To be able to leave with a minimum of trauma and to have ongoing support. I think services like that can also provide some really good advice and some really unbiased support that allows women to make their own informed choices about whether or not they want to go through those much harsher and more rigorous kind of pathways that can be really hard on them and might not give the outcome that we as a society say they should expect anyway. I think there are those different aspects. Support services will also assist women and give them really good, unbiased advice if that is what they do want to do, as well as systems that can assist them to go, I have of what they're going to say in court, how they're going to be failing in court. It's important to make sure you've got that backup. I'd ask service. We work more broadly across all forms of intimate partner violence. We recognize more and more frequently that intimate partner sexual violence often really unrecognized component in domestic violence. At our service. We do tend to lean more towards a crisis response. That's purely because of the volume of the work that we have to undertake. The more and more awareness that Brisbane gains or Queensland has conversations about domestic violence for the busier we get, we would work with people who are considering what they want to do about their situation. We'd certainly be supporting them around whether or not they want to stay or whether they want to go offering them advice on what their options are. If somebody did decide that they wanted to leave the relationship and particularly if there is risk, we would be doing lots of safety planning with them. Lots of risk assessment. That's what really happens first at our service and we've quite frequently assist women to covertly leave relationships so we recognize that the riskiest time is when someone is planning to leave or is leaving. We have lots of structures in place to try and insure that risk is really recognized in mitigated. What is also a component as a part of the support that we do. We don't have formal counseling sessions with women that we do, but all of the practical support that we provide women comes with a lot of emotional support and I'd say probably that opportunistic canceling. We have a really strengths based approach and it's very client centered, which means they were listening to what their needs are, what they want, wherever. Trying to be really understanding, not pushing people into anything that they don't want to do, but being there to support them in their own choices whilst being really frank and honest with them about their risk, about what they can expect and as well being really child centered as well. And it's supporting women to have an understanding of what might be happening for the kids and asking if their kids might need some support as well. Because I think that women often really do stay for their children and they're really concerned about their kids. So we have a focus on that too. Over the years I've worked with a lot of women who've experienced intimate partner sexual violence of varying degrees. Some of it really, really awful severe staff and I've been fortunate enough having worked sort of the places that I've worked for a decent amount of time to see how changes happen for them and to see how their participation in the world has changed and perhaps increased that little bit more with confidence is that they gain how having those conversations about what they went through being supported to not feel ashamed of what was done to them has impacted on their ability to actually spread that message in some circumstances. But also just to leave that behind a little bit more. And I think it's something that for a lot of women will always be there, but for quite a number of them, it tends to be less of this all pervasive trauma. Instead, what it seems to become is something that someone did to them that they can talk about in a way that shows that they survived it and they've come through it and that they are strong people rather than what they'd been told they were or how they felt they were previously. So given the fact that some of these situations can be really ongoing, sometimes getting an outcome, if it is illegal outcome or it could even be an outcome whereby it involves custody of children or protecting children from someone who is a sexual predator. The ongoing, what we would probably call systemic abuse from the perpetrator of the abuse can be really lengthy. We know that men who use relationship violence come from a place of power and control and that includes when they using sexual violence against their partner. And so they will go to great lengths to drag things out to use systems to abuse women and it can be really draining and really frustrating. And often when women feel as though they're just starting to get back on their feet and recover, there'll be some new thing that they come up with all, there'll be some new hurdle or there'll be some new court date that's announced or something that just makes them feel like they're just rolled right back down the bottom of the mountain. And I think having good supports in place is integral to that. It's about having really good professional supports. And professional supports that help you identify your other supports as well. It's great to have that one professional that you can talk to, but having other people in your life that are supportive, that can be there for you in a variety of different ways is really beneficial as well. I would say that doing some work around identifying who those key people in your life is an integral role of any counselor or support person that you do see because that's going to be what helps you get through those tough times when then there's another hurdle or when you do get some insidious text message that's a veiled threat that only you can see or when something does happen that there's new evidence or there's new information and it looks like everything's going to crumble, you need to have those good people around you. If someone was to disclose that they'd experienced intimate partner sexual violence and in the conversation around disclosure, they stated that they want to take no action whatsoever. Then my response would be to support them in that, to let them know that they do have other options. If that's what they choose to do, I would probably let them know what the limitations on going down any further path might be and then leave that at that and just support them and ask them what kind of things that we might want to work on around their recovery from this incident. It's certainly not the case. I think that anyone should be pressuring a woman and whether this be professionals, judiciary, law enforcement, family or friends shouldn't be pressuring women to take particular kinds of action around this. It's a woman's choice to make that decision and not only that, this is someone who's already had their power and control taken away from them. They've already had someone exerting their will over them in a variety of different ways. The last thing that we want to do is do the same to them. We need to respect what they want to do and support them in a way that's beneficial and useful for them. I think when it comes to intimate partner sexual violence, it's really important to remember there. There's so many different aspects of so many different attitudes. There are women from different backgrounds with different knowledge culturally and linguistically diverse women who may have immigrated here from another country who a different perspective. They'll have different supports or less supports. There are marginalized women with disabilities, sometimes intellectual disabilities that have a very different experience about being able to speak out and they have a very different experience sometimes in regard to feeling like they can get the support that they actually need and not be brushed off. Having said that, I know that for women across all walks of life, intimate partner sexual violence is something that's really, really hard for them to talk about because they still feel as though it's not real sexual assault because it happened in the context of a relationship. They still feel as though they don't have the right to say that they've been sexually assaulted because it say partner and we do still have those preconceived ideas that men do have the right to do whatever they want when it comes to their partner. So I think that's something that's underpins all of this that really makes that bit of difference when it comes to your sexual assault within an intimate partner relationship.Speaker 1:
The women who have chosen to share their experiences have done so in the hope of helping other women and better equipping workers and professionals to provide more effective responses. We think the women for lending their voice and giving us their time. If you're listening to this podcast and would like additional support, please contact your local domestic violence or sexual assault service or for legal advice. Uh, community legal service. A transcript of this podcast can be found on our website. Please be aware that this podcast was produced in Queensland, Australia and legal information provided is based on Queensland legislation and law. His podcast was made possible due to funding from legal aid Queensland Community Legal Education Collaboration Fund. If you found this podcast useful and relevant, we encourage you to listen to the other four in this series.