The plenary session after lunch, focused on the deep scourge of violence in the household. The scene was was set by Sharon, a long term Marysville resident, who talked about trauma. She spoke about her ex husband, who was a project firefighter, who was trapped in Marysville, and acquired a traumatic incident, which one couldn’t see, even that he didn’t know. She knew him so well, as you would being together for 20 years.
Feb 6 he was one one man, Feb 7, he was another man. He was different when they were reunited at the showgrounds in Alexandra. He was different, withdrawn, quiet, broody, And then it turned. He became angry. I will not relate any further, as this is not my story to tell. But I suspect it is not uncommon. And it is harrying
Sharon asked, what needs to change to enable you to ask for help, to be OK to say that you are not OK.
Rachael Mackay from Women’s Health Goulburn North East outlined the research of the way he tells it. Some women experienced violence beforehand, others started afterwards. Violence increases 3fold. But it is not reported. Why is this so? one is the common Australian myth of she’ll be right, and we all pull together. Secondly disasters tend to reinforce gender roles, women tend to put themselves at the bottom. There was a willingness to trade off a woman’s right and children’s right to live free from violence, with a willingness to excuse men’s behaviour, from health, police, legal sectors. The research has informed training packages for the sector.
My colleague from University of Melbourne Connie Kellett, spoke about her research on anger. Anger can be a precursor to violence. Can be a trigger, but not always. Many diverse stories were told. People got angry like they did, pre-disaster, but it was much quicker to get angry, and have a greater level of anger. They also found once people got angry, they then found service providers would turn them away
Anger can be a motivator, and help them move forward. But, when it becomes chronic, and high level, it is linked with PTSD and depression.
Groups of themes: lack of acknowledgement, lack of equity, with donations, lack of autonomy and control, message was that they needed to lead it, but wasn’t the case. Unmet expectations was a great source of anger. Politicians and service providers were not able to meet expectations they established early in the disaster.
There were gender differences, women experiencing anger because of the loss of community supports. Men found it hard to seek psychological support. It was also found that experiencing family violence after a disaster had a deeper impact than experienced in the community.
Alison Birchall, a policy adviser with Domestic Violence Victoria, provided the context, 25% of women experience intimate partner violence, and it can take many forms, physical, and emotional. Women and children experiencing family violence can make them more vulnerable to the impacts of disaster, through not having the resources to evacuate, through to the psycho-social risks. Policy and practice changes, in recovery are moving forward. But it needs to also recognise that it occurs before and during the disaster. A focus is on mainstreaming family violence in emergency management, but equally, specialist family violence providers should also be included in emergency management planning.
Beth Taylor from CFA spoke about the establishment of a Prevention of Family Violence Group in the loddon mallee. “The Group”, where they embraced white ribbon day to embed in their practice.