How we’ve TRAPPED domestic violence victims

With 1 in 4 Australian women and 1 in 12 Australian men reporting domestic or sexual violence in research conducted in 2012, it's time to have a look at the impact that tenant rights issues, housing affordability and discrimination has on victims of domestic violence.

Without access to fee-free government advice & support, fairer tenancy laws, a focus on anti-discrimination and housing affordability (all at a National level), tenants in Australia are often left feeling vulnerable and financially disadvantaged.

Victims of domestic violence even more so. I'll explain why.

If you need help now, please contact:

Police OR Ambulance:   000   Lifeline:   13 11 14   1800Respect Helpline:   1800 737 732   Kids Helpline:   1800 55 800

I asked Kathy (from Impact) if there had been an increase over the last 10 years of reported domestic violence. Kathy says, "We do know that, with the increased awareness of family violence, more and more victims are realising that what is happening to them is not only unacceptable, but illegal, and are feeling more empowered to put up their hands and ask for help."

But has enough thought been given to what happens after a victim has been brave enough to break free from domestic violence? There are other factors at play which would see victims endure violence over a longer period of time.

We have published a number of articles which explore issues of Discrimination, Renting for Life and tenancy issues, such as Bond Burglary.

Victims of domestic violence automatically fit inside the discriminatory profile as a "who not to rent to" applicant for being the sole applicant, often with children and even a family pet. As if these victims hadn't been through enough.

They are also at a disadvantage as being someone unlikely to have been allowed to save separately for a deposit bond (which is growing fiercely in line with high rents nationally), let alone a deposit to move into a new family home. Australia's housing affordability crisis is keeping victims inside violent domestic relationships and demonstrates the importance for the need for change in this area.

Added to the pressure of paying a new deposit bond tenants in domestic violence are often faced with thousands of dollars in expenses when they flee. Neither the law nor landlord are often understanding of the seriousness of what's going on and seek to breach the victim for breaking the lease.

The attacker has also been known to do what he or she can to destroy the rental in retribution for leaving, knowing this will have a financial impact on the victim - who is subsequently pursued by the law and landlord for damages as a signed party to the lease.

On the topic of refuge accommodation for victims, Kathy said, "This is a real problem. The funding model has not significantly changed since the 1980s. There is not enough specialised accommodation for the victims and their children needing and seeking it who are often housed in motels."

It's an eye opening reality when motels are the go-to option of many domestic violence victims and their children, instead of a place to call home. It's also true that domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness in families.

"No place to go. Housing is expensive, shelters are often at capacity and survivors can fear putting friends and family at risk if they stay with them when escaping an abuser," writes Barriers to Leaving.

Domestic violence victims are no better off when it comes to understanding their rights as a tenant and where to go to for help. I asked Kathy if victims understand their rights as a tenant, to which she replied, "Are any of us? I think the answer has to be 'no' but, at the same time, I'd like to point out that the case workers do their best in this regard."

What can I do to help free victims of domestic violence?

It's clear the high cost of renting and the housing affordability crisis in Australia is having a severe impact on victims of domestic violence.

Some landlords and agencies are also quick to discriminate against single parents and there is a lack of real support and advice for tenants nationally.

The Tenant Rights Party policies will put an end to this harsh reality. Help by joining the Tenant Rights Party.

Please read about our National Tenancy Body, Anti Discrimination and Housing Affordability campaigns. We need you to join the fight for tenant rights!

6 Responses

  1. Kylie
    It is hard when you have 4 kids and the stigma of being a single mum. Although I had been employed for 18years with a reputable company. I was told off the record the landlord didn't want a single mum.... Something needs to change. When you have to move you have to move. Not fair! I was Only lucky to find a lovely agent but still extremely expensive.
  2. Colleen
    I too lived this for 25 years. My children and I lived in fear of a father/husband with a Jekyll and Hide personality. We often left and went to the police who would take him away and then bring him back. We left and found accommodation but he stalked us for many years. He eventually got cancer and passed away, as cruel as it sounds we finally had peace. No 25 years later I have remarried and am in counselling still experiencing the effects of the trauma. Its something you never get over.
  3. Chris
    There is a another insidious side to this, it involves the use of psychology and natural human behaviour
  4. Karen roberts
    I lived it , I ended up with chronic fatigue and every time my ex came home in the end I would fall asleep , he would take wheels off the car , disconnect the phone, chase me in the car, a visitor book so he would know who was visiting and more it's a horrible existence , I hope more people understand the trauma that keeps you there and you take with you.
  5. Danae
    Kiwi women stay, what else can they do..with no means to support their children outside of the relationship..they stay...the next 5 years will see a rise in the rate of new zealand women killed in dv relationships....they stay..
  6. Donna
    This is so true and I have personally experienced this.

Leave a comment