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.
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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.
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.