Last week University of Queensland hosted a BlueStocking Week luncheon which highlighted gender equality issues, including domestic violence, in an event celebrating women in the higher education sector.
With research showing one in four women are affected by physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, organisations like UQ are starting to provide domestic violence leave for their employees.
UQ are currently negotiating to allow five to ten days paid domestic violence leave for staff leaving an abusive relationship.
UQ specialist in Family and Domestic Violence, Dr Deborah Walsh believes this period of time can still be problematic.
“In some cases women will leave their partners up to six to eight times before they’ll actually leave permanently,” Dr Walsh said.
“It can sometimes take this long for them to realise that the change the perpetrator demonstrates is not sustained change; it’s temporary change just to get the family back.
“In my opinion twenty days would be the most useful as that would be around a month and it takes about a month for women to relocate, settle kids into school and new environments particularly if they’ve gone into women’s refuge.”
Dr Walsh also questions whether victims will use domestic violence leave.
“There is a great deal of shame and secrecy that goes along with domestic violence; I’ve worked with thousands upon thousands of women and vast majority of them are embarrassed and blame themselves for not picking up that this person was going to be violent,” Dr Walsh said.
“The perpetrators aren’t abusive or violent on the first date because they actually systematically groom the victim.
“These offenders will groom their victims for up to three years before they’ll actually perpetrate abuse.”
Other than feeling ashamed, Dr Walsh argues that many women don’t leave their abusive partners because there are too many barriers.
“It can be a real challenge for single mums, especially those with pets, to find sustainable long term accommodation post the separation,” Dr Walsh said.
“Or sometimes it really just isn’t safe to leave; sometimes the violence will just escalate post separation, especially whenever there is child handover.
“The notion that if you’re in domestic violence you should just leave is a throw away line; many women sometimes feel like they have no choice but to stay.”
*If you or anyone you know has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault please contact 1800 RESPECT.