Woeful Treatment of Victims of Domestic Abuse

CW: Mentions domestic violence, fear, homicide, abuse, police, coarse language, other disturbing content.

What I’m about to write is appalling and shows just how woeful the treatment of victims of domestic abuse is in this country, or at very least the state of Victoria. I’m absolutely furious that this is happening right in front of us but no one can see it.

11 days ago I received a call from a detective for the family violence unit who had been involved in helping Lily, who was the victim of an extreme domestic violence and abuse case. Lily’s Husband had been arrested and Lily was being interviewed by the police.

I made my way over to the police station and sat with Lily while her statement was taken and her referral to appropriate support agencies was made. I want to state that I believe every domestic violence case is extreme and no one has the monopoly on being worse than someone else, but this case was at the worst end of many I have seen that didn’t end in the murder of the victim. It was that close.

Now, I sat in that room while the referral was made to get Lily the support she desperately needed and I was there when the referral was sent. We left to get Lily some clothes and essentials and took her to a safe hotel. She has already receive a medical check.

It has now been 11 days since then and not one agency or organisation in this state has helped Lily. Not one. She hasn’t received any support whatsoever in 11 days.

Why? An incorrect address was put on the report. Even so, it initially took four days for the first agency to make contact and the incorrect address was not a factor in the delay. They simply didn’t contact her for four days because as I was told “That’s just the standard time frame.”

When the agency finally did make contact Lily was still too distraught to speak to them and added me as a nominee to speak on her behalf.

I spoke to the case worker and it was then we realised the incorrect address was put on the report. It was the Lily’s old address. This is what happens next.

“Sorry, I can’t help her. She isn’t in my catchment. I’ll make a referral to the agency at her current address and they’ll contact you.”

I reminded the worker that Lily was no longer anywhere near her house as the police had deemed it unsafe for her to be in the area. Her violent ex could be out of lock up any day (as is the way) and would come looking for her. I agreed with the police on this one. Lily couldn’t go back.

“Sorry, there’s nothing I can do. She’s not in my catchment. I’ll refer her on to another organisation.”

I asked if it was going to take another four days to get Lily any help. She replied that she didn’t know.

So we waited. And we waited.

Three days later we still hadn’t heard anything so I called the new agency and asked what was happening and why Lily still hadn’t had a call or been assigned a case worker. I was told that the system showed Lily was due for a call from a case worker in three days. I asked when Lily’s referral had come through to them. They refused to tell me.

Three days before anyone was going to contact Lily. It had already been a week by now since Lily had been taken to safety. When I asked why this was taking so long I was told, “Well that’s just standard. It’s just how long it takes.”

Needless to say I was appalled and angry. It had been a week and Lily would still not receive any help for at least three more days, and that would only be the initial phone consultation.

Lily couldn’t go back home. She could never go back. But her property was a rental and she needed help to break the lease and move out immediately. I asked the previous worker if Lily could get some help to break her lease and move out. I was told yes, but not by them. She was in the wrong catchment, remember? We would have to wait. In the mean time Lily had lost her job and had no money. No one was helping.

In the 11 days now since Lily was removed from her home this charity, Melboune Period Project, who’s initial aim was to supply people experiencing homelessness with sanitary items has had to step in and help Lily move.

We have organised removalists to pack up Lily’s house. Placed all of her belongings in storage. Had bond cleaners come through to clean the house ready for new tenants so Lily can get her bond back. Replaced a smashed door her ex had kicked in. Organised rubbish removal, had the lawns mowed and the gardens weeded. Not to mention liaising with the real estate agent to see if Lily could get out of her lease.

We did all of this with money donated by our supporters because it was literally a matter of life or death to get Lily out of that house and to safety and not one government funded agency who is actually paid to do this has made contact with Lily to organise any of this or to help her in any way.

We didn’t have time to wait. If Lily’s ex partner get bail he will find her and there is a credible threat to her life. She can’t go back there

But, what if we weren’t there? What if we couldn’t help Lily? Because there are dozens of women just like Lily out there and we all blindly assume these agencies are there to help when help is needed but it’s just not true. The delays are costing lives but apparently taking four days to contact a victim of domestic abuse is ‘just standard practice.’

Really? Four days? Or in Lily’s case 11 days and counting. Did you know this? Or, like me and many others were you under the impression that if you called an emergency number you’d receive adequate support as soon as you needed it?

This is an absolute disgrace and I can’t sit back and watch more and more women like Lily be told they just have to accept it because that’s the way it is.

No fucking way! I will NOT accept that this is how victims of domestic abuse are treated. We are not funded to do this but there is no way I’m going to let Lily sit and wait for her ex to find her while she sleeps in her car because no one could help her. Had we not packed her house up she would have lost everything she owned and been blacklisted from private rentals meaning she would now also be homeless and far less likely to ever find stable housing or employment ever again. Imagine the psychological trauma and damage from that? Well it’s happening!

We set women up to fail and it’s happening right under our noses. No more! We need to blow the lid on this absolute bullshit response to domestic violence.

I need to know how many more women this is happening to. The more I work alongside victims of abuse the more I’m seeing that these promised services just aren’t there.

Lily, Christine, Katie, Lauren, all of them. And that’s just the past couple of months.

So, if you have needed the supoort of services because of domestic violence or abuse and you are willing, can you please tell me how long it took for you to get any kind of support, and was it adequate?

Please feel free to contact us. You will remain anonymous.

Almost every woman we assist is coming to us for help because the funded services aren’t providing the assistance they need. We need to blow the lid on what’s really happening and how much help is really getting to those who need it. So please, if you’re willing to share, good or bad, amazing or appalling, what was the response you received when you were initially referred to family violence support services in Victoria?

We are NOT funded to do any of this but we find a way because if we don’t these women will die. I simply cannot leave them behind. But at the rate we’re going we’ll be broke in a couple of months and won’t be able to help anymore. We have to hold these other services accountable as a matter of urgency. Please help us do that.

If you have a story and you’re willing, please share. Collectively our voices are going to make a lot of noise.

  • I want to add the Victorian Police and family violence detectives were absolutely wonderful and compassionate in caring for Lily and providing advice and support.

Lily’s landlord and real estate agents were fantastic and very sympathetic to Lily’s case and allowed her to break the lease. They told me there are so many more women like Lily.

Lily is safe and is in a hotel with added security. We are still assisting her daily.