A challenging start to the year
ANROWS Notepad | 16 January 2020
The start of this year has been a challenging time for people and communities all over Australia. As this catastrophic bushfire season continues, women and their children are facing multiply layered threats to their safety, as unfolding disaster contributes to an increased risk of domestic, family and sexual violence.
In this issue of Notepad we’re taking some time to reflect on the evidence about women’s safety during bushfires.
ANROWS acknowledges that the loss felt during this period may be acutely difficult for First Nations people who are witnessing the catastrophic loss of Country, which is inextricably tied to their cultural lives and livelihoods.
It’s crucial that we keep these issues front of mind when engaging with individuals and communities affected by fire.
Why violence increases during bushfires
Summer is already a time of increased risk of violence. Research suggests that incidents of intimate partner violence, including femicide, increase during and in the days following heatwaves over 34°C. This year, the risk is exacerbated by the ways that disaster increases stressors and plays into existing gender stereotypes.
Women experiencing DFV before the fires may face increasingly frequent and severe violence post-disaster, when trauma, grief, financial stress, and loss of a home or employment may escalate their partner’s perpetration. Women and their children may also find themselves separated from family, friends and other protective networks.
Sexual violence is also known to increase during disasters. There are several factors contributing to this risk: crowded evacuation and recovery spaces may increase women’s and children’s interaction with opportunistic offenders; tension and stress is again a known risk factor for perpetration; and an atmosphere of chaos in communities can be capitalised on by abusers, as it provides cover for their violence and acts as an additional barrier to victims’/survivors’ reporting and response.
There are also increased barriers to accessing help. Women may feel pressure not to report violence during and after disasters, believing that resources are too stretched and that “other people’s needs are greater than mine”. Evidence suggests that some service providers, including police, psychologists and community workers, may encourage women to tolerate violence until things “settle down”. Community and even family members may also perceive violence during disasters as excusable “if it results from temporary anger or results in genuine regret”, and tell women they are over-reacting or “not caring well enough for their men”. This can be exacerbated if the perpetrator is seen as a hero during the fires.
During disasters, people experiencing domestic, family or sexual violence who have additional marginalisations – including being isolated, experiencing homelessness, having disability, using drugs and/or alcohol, being culturally or linguistically diverse, or being LGBTQI+ – may be more vulnerable to violence and face additional barriers to accessing assistance.
Helping affected communities
For community workers
The evidence on increased violence during and after disasters needs to be integrated into emergency management frameworks and approaches. If you work in a community-facing role with those affected by the fires, there are resources available to help you apply a gender lens to your work, and keep the possibility of increased gendered violence front of mind.
Women and Disaster, from Women’s Health Goulburn North East, offers a list of practical ways to support women affected by disaster, as well as a Checklist to Keep Women and Children Safe after Natural Disasters. The resources from the Gender & Disaster Pod (an initiative of Women’s Health Goulburn North East, Women’s Health In the North and the Monash University Disaster Resilience Initiative) include a quick fact sheet on How to ask whether someone is experiencing violence during a disaster, which can be easily integrated into other community response roles.
Helping affected communities
For friends and family
There are also things you can do to improve the safety of loved ones and other people affected by the bushfire crisis.
If you need support following violence, or know someone who does, call the Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Help Line, 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) or contact your state-based DV service:
ACT: Domestic Violence Crisis Service (02 6280 0900)
NSW: Domestic Violence Line (1800 656 463)
Qld: DVConnect (1800 811 811)
SA: Domestic Violence Crisis Line (1800 800 098)
Tas: Family Violence Counselling and Support Service (1800 608 122; 9am–midnight weekdays, 4pm–midnight weekends & public holidays)
Vic: Safe Steps (1800 015 188)
WA: Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline (1800 007 339)
Other useful resources:
How to help someone who has experienced violence – 1800RESPECT
Helping a friend or family member after a traumatic event – Phoenix Australia (University of Melbourne’s Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health)
Community Trauma Toolkit – Emerging Minds
No to Violence Men’s Referral Service (1300 766 491)
Council of Intellectual Disability’s easy-read Bushfire Info Guide NSW (or call 1800 424 065)
“My fire plan was him”
Using a gender lens to improve fire preparations
Using a gender lens is important when making a bushfire survival plan. Research following the 2009 Victorian Black Saturday fires showed that without a very clear plan, men and women tended to fall into gendered roles—with men as ‘protectors’ and women as ‘nurturers’. Gendered expectations can limit the effectiveness of disaster planning.
Interviews with women who had been impacted by the fires indicated that it’s important for us to imagine the varied roles that both women and men might need to play. Women may be alone or cut off from communication, men may be vulnerable and in need of help. Women may be responsible for making decisions about how to defend a home, or choosing an evacuation route.
One respondent, Sophie, explained that her partner (an RFS volunteer) had always promised to come home if their house was under threat. This implicitly gendered fire plan meant that even when her street was evacuating, Sophie stayed, waiting for him to arrive. “Steve and I have never spoken about if this happened… My fire plan was him.”
By helping people purposefully look beyond gendered expectations, consider the evidence and base their decisions on real-world threats and options, a gender analysis improves the effectiveness of emergency management. The Gender and Disaster Pod offers valuable resources on how to do this, including this useful tool to guide gender-informed conversations when making a family fire plan.
ANROWS submissions to NSW Law Reform Commission
In this submission ANROWS draws attention to the fact that sexual assault does occur within relationships and that there are complexities around consent in the context of relationships—including where there is also domestic violence. To underline this, we have suggested that the Law Reform Commission consider providing jury directions on domestic and family violence. We have also highlighted the importance of consent that is contingent upon the proper use of a condom, in the context of reproductive coercion.
Over the next six months we look forward to many of our research projects coming to fruition and new findings being published.
One project currently being finalised is the Development of a best practice guide to perpetrator program evaluation, led by Dr Angela Nicholas from the University of Melbourne.
Following on from the ANROWS-funded project Evaluation readiness, program quality and outcomes in Men’s Behaviour Change Programs, this research will update existing knowledge of the evidence on best practice principles and guidelines for evaluating complex interventions.
The SUSTAIN Study (Sustainability of identification and response to family violence in antenatal care) led by Professor Kelsey Hegarty from the University of Melbourne, builds upon the researcher’s earlier ANROWS project, the WITH Study (Women’s Input into a Trauma-informed systems model of care in Health settings).
In SUSTAIN, the researchers applied WITH to examine first-line response to domestic violence (DV) in the complex system of antenatal care across two different states. With mandatory DV screening already in place in New South Wales, and in the process of being implemented in Victoria, this project could take advantage of one of those rare occasions where ongoing research was able to influence policy and practice change contemporaneously.
ANROWS National Research Conference
Early Bird savings
Be part of this year’s most important conversation about responding to and preventing violence against women and their children.
Save $280 by buying your tickets to the ANROWS National Research Conference now: Early Bird pricing is available until 31 January 2020.
You can also get involved and share the impact of your work at the conference by submitting a proposal for the Evidence in Action Poster Exhibition.
Barnard Centre for Research on Women (US): Interrupting Criminalization—Research in Action
Compass: Guiding action on elder abuse
It’s time we talked: Talking you young people about porn: Parents’ tip sheets
Harvard Centre on the Developing Child: What we can do about toxic stress
Women Count (UK): A Resource for Gender Responsive Budgeting Groups
Books & Reports
Abell Foundation: Thompson, E. &, Kaufman, J. (2019). Prevention, Intervention, and Policy Strategies to Reduce the Individual and Societal Costs Associated with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) for Children in Baltimore City
De Lint, W. & Marmo, M (2019). Narrating Injustice Survival: Self-medication by Victims of Crime. Palgrave Macmillan.
Commission for Children and Young People (2019). Lost, not forgotten: Inquiry into children who died by suicide and were known to Child Protection, Melbourne: Commission for Children and Young People.
Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia) & National Women’s Alliances: The Status of Women and Girls with Disability in Australia
Emerging Minds: Community Trauma Toolkit
Victorian Government: Strengthening the Foundations: First Rolling Action Plan 2019-22
Swinburne University of Technology & National Council for Single Mothers and their Children: Debts and disappointment: mothers’ experiences of the child support system
Baidawi, S. & Sheehan, R. (2019). ‘Crossover kids’: Offending by child protection-involved youth. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice, 582.
Churchill, B., Ravn, S., & Craig, L. (2019). Gendered and generational inequalities in the gig economy era. Journal of Sociology, 55(4), 627–636.
Holmes, B., Best, A. … (2017) Mobilising knowledge in complex health systems: a call to action. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, Volume 13, Number 3, 539-560.
Matthews, S. & Egan, J. (2019). Domestic Violence: A Little Explored Area in Clinical Psychology. Clinical Psychology Today.
Molyneaux, R., Gibbs, L., Bryant, R.A., Humphreys C., Hegarty, K., Kellett, C., Gallagher, H.C., Block, K., Harms, L., Richardson, J.F., Alkemade, N., Forbes, D., (2019). Interpersonal violence and mental health outcomes following disaster, BJPsych Open, 6(1).
Salter, M. (2020). Gay, bisexual and queer men’s attitudes and understandings of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
Douglas, H., Fell, E. (2020). Malicious Reports of Child Maltreatment as Coercive Control: Mothers and Domestic and Family Violence. Journal of Family Violence.
Gribaldo, A. (2019). The Burden of Intimate Partner Violence: Evidence, Experience, and Persuasion. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 42(2), 283-297.
Htun, M., & Jensenius, F. R. (2020). Fighting Violence Against Women: Laws, Norms & Challenges Ahead. Daedalus, 149(1), 144-159.
Papamichail, S. P. (2019). Policing domestic violence in Greece: The cooperation of the police with women-victims of domestic violence as a key factor in the prevention and treatment. Journal of Sociology and Social Work, 7(2).
Renner, L. M., Driessen, M. C., & Lewis-Dmello, A. (2019). A Pilot Study Evaluation of a Parent Group for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence. Journal of Family Violence. Advance online publication.
Ryan, J., & Roman, N. V. (2019). Family-centered interventions for intimate partner violence: A systematic review. A Journal of Injury and Violence Prevention, 17(1), 32-48.
Salter, M., Robinson, K., Ullman, J., Denson, N., Ovenden, G., Noonan, K., & Bansel, P. (in press). Gay, bisexual and queer men’s attitudes and understandings of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
Wiley, K. (2019). Implementing Domestic Violence Policy: When Accountability Trumps Mission. Affilia. Advance online publication.
In the media
A Matter of Crime: Should Australia have a sex offenders registry? – Griffith Criminology Institute
The problem with child protection isn’t the money, it’s the system itself – The Conversation
Each day 35 abused and neglected kids are not seen in time (Qld) – Brisbane Times
Conferences & events
Sydney, 4 March 2020: Feminist Legal Perspectives 2020: Eggshell Skull with Bri Lee
Sydney, 8 March 2020: All About Women
Melbourne, 11 February 2020: Reasonable Belief in Consent: Problems and Possibilities in Rape Law Reform
Sydney, 19 February 2020: Housing: the foundation for mental health (AHURI One-day Conference)
Melbourne, 27-28 February 2020: Advancing the Evidence: Migrant Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Conference
Adelaide, 28-30 April 2020: ANROWS 3rd National Research Conference
Brisbane, 13–14 May 2020: Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Prevention Forum (QIFVP)
Siem Reap, Cambodia, 26–29 May 2020: 10th Asia-Pacific conference on reproductive and sexual health and rights
Melbourne, 10-12 June 2020: AIFS 2020 Conference: What is a good life for families? And how do we get there?
Sweden, 30 June – 2 July, 2020: 23rd Conference of the Nursing Network on Violence Against Women International
Canberra, 10-11 August 2020: National Homelessness Conference 2020
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