SOME people may find it hard to realise the warning signs of a potentially violent partnership at first. Young or old, no one is immune to the psychological predatory behaviour that domestic violence abusers use to isolate victims before subjecting them to more physical abuse.
Unfortunately, when family and friends try to intervene they are pushed away because the victim is in denial about their situation: their judgement clouded by emotion.
As is common in abusive relationships, the victim may experience feelings of shame, intimidation and fear, compounded by the isolation from support networks that generally accompanies domestic abuse.
To combat this, local Manningham counselling service Doncare has developed a revolutionary new app called iMatter, which takes the perceived judgement and pressure out of identifying and accepting that one may be in a harmful relationship.
The app is designed to help young people recognise the early signs of abusive and controlling behaviour and empower them to avoid and leave unhealthy relationships.
iMatter includes images, quizzes, videos, a diary and links to information about domestic abuse services in every country in the world. It also includes positive messages designed to encourage resilience and self-esteem in young people.
The project is managed by Youth Foundation facilitator Katherine Georgakopoulos and Doncare’s placement student Jo Maddock, who both oversaw the launch of the iMatter app on February 14 by Australian of the Year and anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty.
“These types of relationships aren’t always as obvious as a black eye or split lip, so it is vital victims are empowered to deal with psychological abuse as well,” Rosie says.
“I think throughout our communities, at any age, we’re learning it’s not just about physical violence,” she said. “Violence is also psychological, which includes verbal. It’s not just about physical harm, it’s far more complex than that.”
Batty said it wasn’t until she was 40 that she finally realised the psychological and physical abuse wasn’t her fault, proving the importance of young people being able to recognise the warning signs early.
Recent Australian research has revealed that 22% of women under the age of 20 have experienced intimate partner violence and what’s even more concerning is that many young women misinterpret behaviour like extreme jealousy and controlling tendencies as signs of love and affection. From these figures it is clear that an app of this kind is long overdue and the creators have already seen an overwhelming response.
Doncare director Carmel O’Brien says, “We hear again and again from young people that they are putting up with things in relationships that are really very disrespectful and sometimes frightening.”
Working closely with domestic violence victims, the Doncare team is aware that young women feel they are rarely warned about the very fine line between controlling behaviours and abuse. The app also promotes self-esteem and confidence, as Batty believes low self-esteem can lead young women to enter and remain in damaging relationships.
“If you’re approaching a relationship when you have no self-esteem, you’re most likely to enter into a toxic relationship,” Batty said. “It will not get better, it will wear you down and will reduce you to a very low point.”
Her most important message? “If (the relationship) doesn’t feel right, get out of it. Get out.”
If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic violence, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au
In an emergency, call 000.
The iMatter app is available at iTunes and Google play stores.