Better support systems needed for domestic violence survivors

1 November 2023 |

Providing the right support at the right time for victim-survivors of intimate partner violence is an ongoing challenge.

The national VOICES study sought to understand the help-seeking journeys and support needs of women at different stages, through in-depth interviews with 30 victim-survivors.

Lead Researcher Dr Mandy McKenzie said the study found that women victim-survivors largely did not feel adequately supported by the service system. The findings also offer important insights into the changes needed in service design and policy that could make an important difference.

“This study is unique in that it takes a deep dive into the help-seeking needs and experiences of women victim-survivors Australia-wide,” Dr McKenzie said.

“It contains a wealth of vital information to guide and improve practice across health, legal and specialist services.”

The study identified five key stages of help-seeking for victim-survivors. It is important to note that women did not necessarily proceed through all the stages, nor was the journey always a linear one.

The five stages were:

• maintaining hope and fixing problems

• assessing options and seeking solutions

• getting out

• establishing independence and safety, and

• addressing impacts and making sense.

Women shared the different types of support they needed at different stages of their help-seeking journey. These ranged from empathetic listening and validation of their concerns to options for support and safety, through to tangible and practical support, such as housing, financial help, and legal advice.

Women also said they needed someone to support, guide, and advocate for them as they navigated a complex service system, and for perpetrators to be held to account for their behaviour.

Finally, women needed support to address the traumatic impacts of family violence for themselves and their children, including ongoing support from trauma-informed, sensitive counsellors and health professionals, as well as connecting with other victims and survivors.

This research was published by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Limited.