Gaining insights into intimate partner violence to create change

1 November 2023 |

Earlier and more effective interventions and support are needed to prevent intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence. 

That’s the finding of a study titled “I just felt like I was running around in a circle”: Listening to the voices of victims and perpetrators to transform responses to intimate partner violence.

The study found that victim-survivors and perpetrators of intimate partner violence want and need more support to seek professional help.

Lead Researcher Professor Kelsey Hegarty said 1,122 women victim-survivors and 563 people who had used intimate partner violence and/ or sexual violence against women were surveyed as part of the study.

Thirty women victim‑survivors and eight men who had used intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence were also interviewed.

“This research is important because it listens to the voices and experiences of men who use violence; a critical component to ending violence against women,” Prof Hegarty said.

The study found many victims and survivors did not seek any formal help for their relationship issues. Barriers preventing victim‑survivors and perpetrators from seeking help included: feeling ashamed, lack of awareness about services that could help, and concerns about confidentiality.

The study also found many victim-survivors experienced multiple types of intimate partner violence rather than one type during their lifetime. A significant proportion of victim-survivors had also experienced mental health issues and disability.

The study’s findings show changes are needed in policy, social networks, early engagement services, as well as access and response services.

Recommendations for policy and practice level improvements include: ensuring the service system supports children, tailoring responses for people from diverse backgrounds, and offering sustained support for perpetrators within a framework that balances empathy with accountability.

For the broader community, the study recommends improved public education on healthy and abusive behaviours in relationships and raising awareness of the support and resources available for victim-survivors and perpetrators of intimate partner violence.

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