Girls as young as 12 in domestic violence relationships in the Kimberley

Domestic violence is so common in the region girls believe it is normal.

Domestic violence disproportionately affects women in Australia, and for women living in the Kimberley, this reality is far starker than for the average Western Australian. In fact, women in the Kimberly are four times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of domestic violence than the average Western Australian women, and reporting rates are increasing at twice the state average.

Welfare workers have raised concerns about the prevalence and normalisation of domestic violence in regional Western Australia where girls as young as twelve are being assaulted by their boyfriends according to a report by Emily Jane Smith of ABC Kimberley.

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Alarmingly, more and more adolescent girls are having violence perpetrated against them. And because domestic violence is so rampant in their communities, girls believe it is “normal” to be beaten by a boyfriend.

Among those raising concerns is Victoria Baird. In her capacity as the regional coordinator of Save The Children in the East Kimberly, Baird said that domestic violence affected most of the young people with whom she came into contact.

"We have 12, 13, 14-year-olds who are already in violent relationships with their teenage partners," revealed Baird in a shocking statement.

A report to this effect was given by Detective Sergeant Tania MacKenzie of East Kimberley in March 2017.

"We're seeing situations where young girls [as young as 14] are being repeatedly assaulted, dragged along the street and assaulted again and again, which is such a concern that at that young age they're getting used to that level of violence," said Detective Sergeant MacKenzie.

Ms Baird explained that children often experience domestic violence growing up and so domestic violence becomes normalised and tolerated.

"Domestic violence is so normalised across the region. Most of these kids have […] experienced it growing up, it's not an unusual part of a relationship,'' said Ms Baird.

"It's something that affects them in their relationship in their family that they've grown up and now as they move forward into adulthood, it's repeating that cycle."

And the cycle is vicious.

Welfare workers say that attacks such as a recent incident, which saw a 16-year-old girl allegedly slashed across the face by her boyfriend, are not uncommon.

In fact, Detective Sergeant MacKenzie said, "I've seen women that have had their ankles smashed with rocks, so they can't walk away with anyone else, and we've seen repeated attacks with all sorts of weapons: belt buckles, rocks, hammers, wheel braces, boiling water, just a myriad of weapons that people use and yes, you get some pretty horrific injuries from those kind of weapons." (Park 2017).

While reporting rates are on the rise, terror continues to plague survivors of domestic violence, particularly adolescent survivours, who often are too afraid to speak out for fear of backlash or retribution from the perpetrator or the perpetrator’s family.

This cycle of violence must be broken, and for this to occur, Mr Hill insists that young people must be engaged and taught about healthy relationships.

"We need to break that cycle, but to break the cycle you need begin with the young generation," he said.

Mr Hill suggested that services for young men, in particular, were needed to change the pervasive and entrenched culture of violence in the Kimberly region.

"We need to teach them from a young age that it's not an acceptable way to treat your partner," he said.

For family and domestic violence support services:

    1800 Respect national helpline: 1800 737 732

    Women's Crisis Line: 1800 811 811

    Men's Referral Service: 1300 766 491

    Lifeline (24 hour crisis line): 131 114

    Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277

Please join Collective Shout in our commitment to protecting girls from sexual exploitation and violence

About the author: Violeta Buljubasic detests pornography and anything that resembles it. Cognisant of its devastating consequences, she believes that porn and the raunch culture from which it stems are symptoms of a ubiquitous ill that has removed sex and sexuality from their original design. Moved by the work of Collective Shout, Fight the New Drug, and NCOSE, Violeta hopes to be part of the solution to this insidious problem.


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