There are growing concerns in the domestic violence sector following the state-wide lockdown in New South Wales and extended lockdowns in Melbourne and Canberra.  More than two thirds of DV service providers have reported an increase in demand for support services, many of which are seeking help for the first time.

Since the pandemic, women are isolated, more vulnerable, and it has become increasingly difficult for them to seek outside help, trapped at home with their controlling and abusive partners. While we have yet to see the full impact of these lockdowns with relation to increase in domestic violence, the latest statistics point to a widespread systemic failure that is only worsening by the day.

We need to find a way to help these women leave their toxic relationships safely, says DV campaigner and author of The Self-Preservation Guide Kristina Ruth. The culture of domestic violence in Australia and the band aid effect of trying to fix what has already been broken doesn’t help prevent people from entering toxic and dangerous relationships in the first place. “Understanding the warning signs and spotting red flags so people can avoid these potentially fatal relationships before they even start, will help our community become more vigilant and aware of behaviours that are not ok on first sight of them. While I appreciate that some perpetrators’ behaviour can be incredibly hard to spot, there are many that are easy to see,” said Ruth.

Her book covers some of the common red flags to be on the lookout for such as stalking, public shows of humiliation, jealousy when you spend time with friends or family, or constant dominating behaviours that make you feel like you need to walk on eggshells. “We as a community need to know none of these behaviours are acceptable, and all of them are classed as warning signs and the beginnings of what can very likely transform into an abusive relationship.

“With more education around these behaviours from the media for example, we can help our community become safer. Every person I’ve spoken to in a domestic violence relationship wishes they knew about and understood these things beforehand—if they had of there would have been a high chance, they would never have gotten into the relationship in the first place. Prevention is always a better option and through education we can also help those who exhibit these behaviours to break the cycle.”

The Self-Preservation Guide contains the full list of red flags and explains the various kinds of abuse including physical, emotional, and financial. “All are toxic, and all of them provoke fear and compromise the personal safety of a person. We need to be having these conversations […] everywhere to help build safer communities.”

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