Ensuring there is an appropriate system in place to meet family violence victim survivors’ immediate and longer term needs is vital in allowing them to get their lives back on track and prevent further abuse. In investigating this topic, we sought to examine the implementation progress in establishing an effective service system that meets the needs of victim survivors at their point(s) of crisis and supports their journey towards recovery. Specifically, we explored:
- how victim survivors experience the service system from the point of crisis and beyond
- the extent to which the range of services a victim survivor might need are available, accessible and wellcoordinated
- the extent to which the service system meets the needs of diverse groups
- whether there is enough focus on long-term recovery.
We note that the family violence service system considers a victim survivor as being in crisis when they require immediate support to respond to a threat posed by a perpetrator. This report includes discussion of the support available at such a point of acute family violence crisis. However, we are also guided by the victim survivors we met who explained that ‘if you’re ready to get help and you reach out, you are in crisis and need that help’. This report also, therefore, explores what happens when a victim survivor reaches out to the family violence service system for help, or when police become involved, whether or not the system considers them to be in crisis.
When we say ‘recovery’, we are talking victim survivors being able to heal so that their past trauma doesn’t continue to have an overwhelming impact on their lives, as evidenced by improvements to their health, safety, wellbeing and participation in society. We fully acknowledge what some victim survivors have told us: that you don’t ever fully recover from the experience of family violence. In that context, we focus throughout this report on how victim survivors are supported on their journey towards recovery. We also acknowledge that this journey is not always linear. For example, a victim survivor’s situation may stabilise, but they may re-enter the crisis phase if they return to a relationship with a partner who uses violence. This may, at times, be linked with delays or barriers to them being able to access the services they need to maintain stability and move towards recovery.
We acknowledge that victim survivors will disclose family violence and connect with the family violence system in a range of ways; however, it is not possible nor practical for us to explore all these pathways in this report. Some of these pathways are captured in our Early Identification of Family Violence Within Universal Services report, which explored how well mainstream health and education services are able to identify family violence and connect victim survivors with the support they need. The scope of this report is limited to situations where police have become involved or a victim survivor has reached out to the family violence system for support.
As always, we must highlight the challenges that ever-increasing levels of demand and the added pressure of COVID-19 have had on the family violence sector. The sector representatives we met with are exceptionally committed to supporting victim survivors and to improving the system, and they often go over and above to meet the needs of their clients. The findings and suggestions in our report must be taken in this context.