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Long-term impacts of domestic violence on women’s lives revealed

Media release

Curtin University researchers have uncovered the devastating legacy domestic violence imposes on the day-to-day lives of Australian women long after the cycle of violence ends.

The national study, a joint project with the University of South Australia, looked at how domestic violence impacts on women’s lives over time and examined three aspects of everyday life – housing, employment and mental health.

Professor Donna Chung from Curtin’s School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work said domestic violence could damage women’s mental health as well as their housing and employment situations, things we all need but perhaps take for granted.

“The study found that the majority of women reported that they did not regain the levels of mental health, the quality of housing or the employment status, which they had achieved before their experiences of domestic violence,” Professor Chung said.

A national online survey was used to question 658 women about their housing, employment, and mental health before, during and after experiencing domestic violence.

The general findings revealed:

  • 96.8 per cent of violent partners were male.
  • Domestic violence was experienced for a range of one to seven years with an average time of 3.25 years.
  • 82.4 per cent reported they were not currently experiencing domestic violence.
  • 50.9 per cent reported experiencing domestic violence after separation from violent partners and continued for an average of three years.

Professor Chung said multiple types of abuse were reported including emotional and psychological, social, physical, financial, sexual and spiritual.

“In the area of employment the study found women were most highly represented in the low income ranges with 40 per cent earning under $30,000 and 14 per cent earning $30,000 to $39,000,” Professor Chung said.

“Many women indicated that domestic violence had made it difficult for them to keep a job and 30 per cent of women could not continue in their place of employment because of safety reasons.

“In housing, 42.2 per cent reported having to make a significant move because of domestic violence. During domestic violence 50.8 per cent owned their home, however, after leaving domestic violence only 13.4 per cent owned their home.

“Women’s social isolation during domestic violence is also starkly evident.  Many women go from having wide circles of friends, playing sport and volunteering in the community to having their movements restricted by their abusive partners.  Not only does this impact on their freedom, but also their recovery and capacity to regain control over their lives,” Professor Chung said.