Experiencing domestic violence as a child can contribute to women taking their own lives
Advertisement

Experiencing domestic violence as a child can contribute to women taking their own lives

Nearly 20 per cent of women who took their own lives were known to police because they were exposed to domestic violence as children, a new report by the NSW Domestic Violence Review Team has revealed.

A new study has shown the link between domestic violence and suicide.

A new study has shown the link between domestic violence and suicide.

The report also found nearly half of all people who committed suicidehad experienced domestic violence, either as victims or as perpetrators.

Domestic Violence Victoria CEO Fiona McCormack said the research was heart-breaking.

"This is a critical national emergency. More than one woman is murdered every week and these family violence deaths are on top of that. The federal government must make this a priority because what they are doing is just not enough."

Advertisement

The research used data from police to examine both reported and unreported histories of domestic violence in the lives of those who took their own lives from July to December 2013.

Previous research showed a clear connection between those who think about suicide and their experience of family violence but this is the first study in Australia to show the link. Researchers said there was no reason to believe this pattern was any different across Australia.

Domestic violence researcher Michael Flood, associate professor at Queensland University of Technology, said the reasons men assault their partners and the reasons they kill themselves overlapped.

"From those numbers, it's clear that if we fix family violence that will have [a] significant impact on suicide levels," he said.

The figures show men were mostly the perpetrators and women mostly victims. Of the 330 suicides in the study, men accounted for 74 per cent and women 26 per cent. Of the women, 39 per cent were known to police in relation to domestic and family violence, either as a victim, a perpetrator, or both. That figure was 38 per cent for men.

Of the women known to police for intimate partner violence, nearly 70 per cent were identified by police as victims, 19 per cent as both victims and perpetrators; and 6 per cent as perpetrators alone. About 10 per cent were named in a current Apprehended Domestic Violence order, the majority as the protected person.

Of the men known to police for intimate partner violence, nearly 90 per cent were identified by police as the perpetrators, 5 per cent as victims and 13 per cent as both perpetrators and victims; 7 per cent were named as a defendant in a current ADVO.

Ms McCormack said: "My understanding is that the federal government has flagged another family violence focused COAG discussion in '2018 or 2019' which will mean that it could possibly be three years between national discussions.

"This simply isn't good enough when so many Australians are dying unnecessarily."

A spokesman for federal Minister for Women Michaelia Cash rejected these claims.

"Any suggestion that domestic violence is not being prioritised by the government or COAG is simply incorrect," he said. "Domestic violence has been a standing item at every COAG meeting since 2015, other than one meeting that was specifically to discuss counter terrorism.

"In October 2016 the government held the first COAG Reducing Violence Against Women Summit. Decisions from that summit are currently being implemented, including work on family law reform, technology facilitated abuse, a national family violence risk assessment framework and a national Domestic Violence Order Scheme."

The report found between July 2000 and June 2014, 179 women, 99 men and 65 children "lost their lives to domestic violence in NSW". These are homicides which are separate to the suicides.

The CEO of DVNSW Moo Baulch is calling for closer work between mental health and domestic violence services to ensure early identification of those affected by family violence.

The manager of the Domestic Violence Death Review Team, Anna Butler, said: "This work represents an important first stage examination of domestic violence as a characteristic in suicide – an area of analysis that has gone largely unexplored in NSW to date.

"We do, however, need to be cautious in drawing any firm conclusions from this preliminary data ... in doing this work we hope to gain a better understanding of the relationship between suicide and domestic violence victimisation and perpetration with a view to identifying opportunities for enhanced domestic violence intervention and prevention."