THE general public’s view of domestic violence must be changed by an educational campaign, according to one of Queensland’s leading social work academics.
Dr Deborah Walsh, from the University of Queensland, said the political approach to domestic violence had embraced a wider view of the scourge that wasn’t always matched by the public.
“There is a difference between how the general public classifies domestic violence and how the systems view it,” Dr Walsh said.
“The systems view it as a broad range of behaviour that coercively controls an individual or family member.
“There are some people who view it as a drunk man coming home from the pub and hitting his partner. It’s so much more than that.
“There are non-physical assault tactics that are domestic violence.”
Centacare’s frontline workers speak about the deep impacts of non-physical controlling behaviour including the prevention of access to money and to items such as mobile phones.
Some of these behaviours are recognised by legislation but are not as well known by the public.
Domestic violence practitioners talk about some victims who struggled to understand that they were being harmed by abusive behaviours.
Dr Walsh said a prolonged and targeted advertising campaign should be considered to propel knowledge of domestic violence to a higher level.
“Unless we get information out there and do an educational campaign, the things we do as social workers will only help those already in touch with us,” Dr Walsh said.
“We need to have a dual-pronged approach – strengthening the services and strengthening the availability of information.
“We can’t run one series of ads and then leave it. Attitudinal change is a long-term campaign. It takes a long time.”
Domestic violence workers have pinpointed the way in which society has changed its views on the likes of smoking and the road toll with the help of public policy measures.
The policy measures for domestic violence have been significantly increased on the back of government-led reports including Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk adopted all of the report’s 121 recommendations that related to government while promising to support other recommendations that were beyond its control.
Dr Walsh said the political support by state and federal leaders “would have a profound impact on service delivery”.
But she said some worrying incidents of domestic violence in the past month – some of which were horrific and widely reported – had left experts concerned that the policy change was not being matched by attitudinal change.
“It’s concerning to many people who work in the sector that we have had some very serious public incidents – these have been extremely worrying,” Dr Walsh said.
“We’re hoping it’s an aberration but there is a deep, dark concern that it may be a trend. Time will tell but we know there is a need for widespread attitudinal change.”