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Forms Of Abuseimages from the stories

What is it?

HURT is an interactive website that is designed to raise awareness about the hidden devastation and family turmoil of domestic and family violence and sexual assault, confronting the shame and investigating the issues from the incomparable perspective of those involved.

"He’d explode and I’d run around closing doors and windows. I was terrified of other people hearing and judging us."

– Lynette

Modelled like a house, the website invites viewers to explore the house from the perspective of any one of 27 characters who are linked to over 100 video clips. As you explore through the kitchen, dining, lounge, laundry, study and bedrooms different objects and pieces of furniture are linked to video clips of recreated interview of different characters re-telling their experience of domestic and family violence as it relates to that particular room and/or object.  For example, a knife in the kitchen is linked to a video of ‘Sharin’ describing an incident where her husband threatened her with a knife. Or the story of Rob….

It is hoped that by presenting people with images of real people telling real stories about their experience of domestic and family violence will result in increased attention to and outrage towards this prevalent but often minimised atrocity that is perpetrated in hundreds of thousands of homes across Australia. 

Why a house?

A house was chosen as the medium from which the experience of domestic and family violence is described and presented because it in itself plays a significant role in the experience and proliferation of violence in Australia.

"If someone came to the door when I was in full flight, yelling at Maggie, I could switch off just like that and become Mister Nice Guy." - Alistair

In the case of many women and children who experience domestic and family violence the systematic abuse and terrorisation that they go through occurs mainly within the confines of the family home. This means that unlike many Australians who view the home as being a symbol of safety, stability and security, women and children who have been abused by a family member or loved one experience the home as being a place of fear, hurt, degradation and shame.

The home as being a feature in the experience of domestic and family violence is further emphasised by the fact that 80% of perpetrators of domestic and family violence are not violent in any other facets or domains in their life. Indeed many perpetrators are charming, affable and well liked within their communities. This ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ phenomenon reinforces the idea that the home is in itself a central ‘character’ in the experience of domestic and family violence. 

Where did the stories come from?

All of the stories presented in the HURT website are based on real stories and experiences told by women, men and service providers who work with children, from across Australia. Over 60 interviews were conducted with people from a variety of locations (Perth, Rockingham, Albany, Northam, Bunbury, Geraldton, Derby, Broome, Karratha, Melbourne, and remote Kimberley communities) and backgrounds (Indigenous, non-Indigenous and people from non English speaking backgrounds).

"From when I was little I could always tell when dad was going to go off… I’d pull Dylan into the bedroom and close him in the cupboard." – Steph

Once all of the stories were collected they were used by a script writer to inform and inspire development of the characters that are represented within the HURT website. An important part of this process was to blend different peoples’ stories together which was done to preserve the anonymity of people who had participated in the interview process. To safeguard this process and ensure that the characters created were as ‘real’ and ‘relevant’ as possible workers from Western Australia’s domestic violence sector were consulted about the characters created and were invited to provide feedback on the scripts developed. Once the scripts had been finalised actors were cast to play the different characters and were filmed re-telling the stories in an interview type scenario – these are the people who you see in the website.

Why we made it?

"Since it wasn’t physical, I mean I didn’t have any injuries to show that it was abuse, I was able to convince myself that things might get better." - Lynette

In Australia domestic and family violence affects over one in five women and a quarter of children and young people. It is a terrifying experience that can lead to extensive and pervasive long-term consequences. However, despite its prevalence and significant consequences to wellbeing many people in Australia have limited awareness/understanding about domestic and family violence, the power and control dynamic, and how it affects people. In fact Victoria Health (2006) estimated that up to 23% of respondents did not recognise yelling, criticising and controlling behaviours as being forms of domestic and family violence; that 20% of respondents believed that domestic and family violence was perpetrated equally by men and women; 25% believed that domestic violence can be excused if the perpetrator genuinely regrets it or if the violence results from temporary loss of control; and that there was a high level of belief that women often falsify claims of domestic violence to gain a tactical advantage. In addition they found that 40% of respondents would not know where to get advice or support about domestic violence. These statistics are concerning because low understanding and awareness leads to the perpetuation of myths and inaccuracies about violence, victim blaming, barriers to service provision and escape, and denial or disbelief when people disclose that they are being abused.

"Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, saying sorry to my kids for what I done to their mother." - Darren

In order to support women and children who are affected by domestic and family violence it is critical that we raise community awareness and understanding of this crime. Therefore, this project aims to draw attention to the issue, providing people with insight into the horrifying experience of domestic and family violence. Key themes that will be reinforced within the information presented are that violence is never justified, and that victims of abuse are never to blame.

Reference

Victoria Health (2006). Two steps forward, one step back: Community attitudes to violence against women. Victoria Health.