Domestic violence system needs overhaul: victim

EVERY day of the year, a local victim of domestic violence begins the initial steps in transitioning to survivor.

The Observer can reveal disturbing new statistics that in 2014, domestic violence orders taken out in the Gladstone courts numbered 359.

>> Heart-breaking family violence crosses generations

Naomi Steppen (not her real name) is just one of the local faces of domestic violence.

For almost 12 years, the 54-year-old woman was savagely beaten by her de facto partner, sometimes with a fist and others with rolling pins, cords or even an iron.

"It is Gladstone's shameful, big, dirty secret," she said.

"Domestic violence is rife. If you're lucky enough to not be a part of the network, you have no idea how bad it really is."

Ms Steppen admits she would have remained in the horrific confines of her tormentor had it not been for her daughter.

"One day she came home with a black eye, all bruised up and trembling," she said.

"Her partner was now abusing her, too, and I knew it was partly my fault. She thought it was normal."

Ms Steppen says the ripple effect of domestic violence is amplified by secrecy.

She says the secrecy in turn creates shame for the victims.

Incidents are rarely reported in the media due to an inherent risk of identifying the victim.

"I believe there is a need to protect victims publicly of course," she said.

"But there is a damaging element when the public are only informed of the cases when something has gone terribly wrong."

She is also calling for an overhaul of the justice system.

"The system is flawed in so many ways that I find it understandable many women, children and partners avoid it altogether," she said.

"A ruling can only be made once violence has already occured. You can't seek help until the help is no longer required."

In November, 30 Gladstone offenders were placed under community-based supervision after they had breached conditions of domestic violence orders taken out against them.

In Ms Steppen's eyes, that is 30 opportunities that could have easily been marred with tragedy.

"I never once was offered help by my neighbours, no one ever called the police for help," she said.

"I know they could hear me screaming. I can't blame them, but it shouldn't be that way."

On average, police will attend 280 call-outs for domestic-related offences in the wider Capricornia district.

It is estimated that for every complaint received by police regarding domestic violence, there are three more that go unreported.

If you need help:

  • Womens' Health Centre 4979 1456
  • DV Connect Womensline 1800 811 811
  • DV Connect Mensline 1800 600 636
  • Elder Abuse Helpline 1300 651 192


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