The Cost of Safety: Escaping Domestic Violence

Aug 15
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The Victoria Royal Commission recently invited submissions from anyone affected by domestic violence.  Unsurprisingly to those organisations supporting victims of domestic violence, the Commission received over 1,000 submissions.  Domestic violence is indeed ‘Australia’s shame’. Focus needs to shift from blaming the victim for not escaping the violence to highlighting the actions of the perpetrator. 

It is now incumbent upon the Victorian Government to build that bridge to safety.   They must not shy away from the heightened expectations; they must not bow down to artificial boundaries such as the state and federal jurisdictions.  They must do Whatever It Takes.

We have a collective responsibility and opportunity to restore safety, dignity and autonomy. NCSMC asked the Commissioners to fully understand the need for autonomy and recognise the financial consequences for single mother families who have been subjected to family violence.  It seems obvious that families impacted by domestic violence should be granted an exemption to the current social security rules and retain access to the modest but appropriate Parenting Payment.

Imagine packing your twin girls aged 7 into a car and fleeing, which included crossing two state boundaries.  A new life begins, built out of stoic determination; resolve to be free from the violence, the yelling, the threats
and the fear. A small but safe home was their shelter, their sanctuary, the girls
could sing and laugh and it was never too loud.  Goodnight meant a ‘good night’. 
Mum was not yet in paid work, she needed to be nearby and did volunteer work
at the school.  It kept them close and for these girls this meant safe. Imagine losing
it all on 14th May 2013 because the girls celebrated their eighth birthday and
mum was denied the parenting payment, she could not afford to keep her house. 

Alarmingly the true number of women and children traumatised, broken and buried by domestic violence can only be ‘guesstimated’.  How many others affected by violence did not tender a submission?  Victim blaming, systemic failure and fear prevents women from coming forward and seeking support. 

Domestic violence must be included in the Australian income support system.  Intuitively, we all understand that it’s a time when families need additional and ongoing financial support and that it coincides with increased parental demands.   

Is Australia in breach of our Human Rights? What are the consequences if we don’t get this right?  It’s time to get real about safety – it’s too costly to ignore.


If you or someone you know has been affected by domestic violence, call the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line, 1800-RESPECT (1800 737 732). In an emergency, call 000.

The National Working with Men to Tackle Family Violence Conference takes place in Sydney in February 2017.  In association with No To Violence, this event will share and discuss strategies for prevention, intervention and perpetrator accountability. 

Ending Family Violence

Submitted by Terese Edwards

Terese Edwards

Terese Edwards is Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children Inc. She is also Chair of the South Australian Women Services Network. Terese is an ambassador for single mother families and speaks for women and children who contend with poverty, hardship and violence.

4 thoughts on “The Cost of Safety: Escaping Domestic Violence

  1. It’s the depression that gets me and my kids. People don’t understand the mental abuse confine in you . Your mind can be like a prision

  2. As a single parent with no support. Where do you leave your child aged 8 if you cant find part time work in school hours. There are waiting lists for before and after school but the problem with that is the cost. You feel like you are doomed trying get away from a horrible situation. Especially when you have no one to turn to and you have 3 children scared, traumatized and worrying what will happen next. Not everyone decided to end up this way. Domestic violence is a horrible thing,escaping it just seems just as hard.

  3. domestic violence doesnt stop when you leave. refusing to supply child support or any financial support helps to keep us entangled. being forced onto Newstart and now under threat of the basic card are all just ways to prevent us from living life.

  4. I find it hard to comprehend we are still counting the numbers with no workable solutions to prevent violence. Until we ask the right questions nothing will change. All the talk is nothing but a barrier to change. Learn from past mistakes the answers are there and it starts with enabling a person their basic needs to make informed decisions. All our Services across the board (police, Centrelink, job networks, teachers the list goes on) to be trauma informed to help a person understand their triggers offering new coping skills and awareness of self-accountability. Empower people to know they deserve better, strategies to cope with reactive behaviours. Our systems are failing yet we continue the chatter of blame and shame without looking at the underlying issues.

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