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Don't turn a blind eye to domestic violence, urges crisis service

Date

Christopher Knaus

Police urge the public to phone them immediately if they witness domestic violence.

Police urge the public to phone them immediately if they witness domestic violence. Photo: Gabriele Charotte

Domestic violence workers say reports of by-standers turning a blind-eye to domestic violence in Canberra are scary and simply “not OK”.

And ACT Policing have urged anyone witnessing similar behaviour to instantly call police, but warned the public against intentionally placing themselves in danger.

Fairfax Media published today reports of a woman who witnessed a domestic violence incident at Majura Park on Sunday.

A woman was seen being grabbed by the throat, grappled to the ground, hit, and dragged to a car.

A number of men were seen to pull up next to the incident to watch, without intervening or going to the woman’s aid.

Domestic Violence Crisis Service executive director Mirjana Wilson said the incident was deeply concerning, and there was an onus on the community to help women in such situations.

“It’s not OK, I see it as a community responsibility,” Ms Wilson said.

“It is disturbing that people do stand around and not report, because I think there are ways of being able to do that safely."

“If you see a car accident, 10 people do jump out and everyone’s on their phones calling police or the ambulance to get assistance, but we still don’t do that in the same way for something like this.”

The article has prompted vigorous debate from readers on whether bystanders should intervene if they witness domestic violence, and if so how.

Ms Wilson said victims in such situations were often reliant on the community stepping in to help, because they themselves are unable to.

But she said there was still a concerning community perception that domestic violence was a “private issue”.

She urged those in similar situations to call police immediately, and intervene if safe.

“A lot of the time it does actually come from members of the public, whether it’s a neighbour or someone seeing something in the street, in a car park, or in a shopping centre, or somewhere,” Ms Wilson said.

“I would be encouraging people who are by-standers and are witnessing violence to actually pick up the phone and call police,” she said.

ACT Policing echoed that advice, saying that people should immediately contact police operations on 131 444, or triple-0 if they believe it to be a life-threatening emergency.

“You should not intentionally put yourself in a position where your safety is in danger,” a spokeswoman said.

Calls to police operations would be responded to according to their seriousness, and witnesses would be asked for details such as a description of the incident, location, descriptions of any people or cars involved, including car registrations.

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