Prevention and response to family violence

What are we doing to end family violence?

  1. Preventing violence before it starts – through social and cultural change across the whole community.
  2. Intervening early – to stop family violence from recurring or escalating.
  3. Responding to crisis – with information and services that provide accommodation, support, counselling and advocacy.19


1. Primary Prevention

What is it?

Primary prevention is action to stop family violence from occurring in the first place. It is aimed at the community as a whole, and also at particular groups within the community. To prevent family violence we must change the attitudes and social conditions that allow it to happen. That means we need to:

  • design strategies to change harmful attitudes towards women, promote gender equality and encourage respectful relationships
  • challenge the condoning of violence against women
  • use a variety of complementary approaches
  • make a long term investment – cultural change takes decades.

Change the story

Change the Story is a long term framework to end violence against women and children. Released in 2015 and based on extensive research, it sets out essential action to bring about the social and cultural change needed to end violence against women and children.

Examples of effective primary prevention programs include:

  • primary and secondary schools teaching boys and girls about respectful relationships
  • workplaces, sporting clubs and other community groups educating their members about family violence.

2. Early Intervention

What is it?

Early intervention is action to identify and support people experiencing family violence, with the aim of stopping early signs of violence from escalating, preventing a recurrence of violence, or reducing harm in the longer term.

Where can early intervention programs take place?

Wherever those affected by family violence come into contact with people who might be able to help them. This can happen in:

  • health care settings such as GPs, maternal and child health nurses, community health centres, and hospitals
  • schools and pre‐school settings including childcare
  • family services, housing, employment, mental health, and drug and alcohol services
  • local community groups, such as sports clubs.

Hospital staff, health workers, teachers, hairdressers, early childhood workers, vets, family members, neighbours and bystanders can all be trained to recognise the signs of family violence and offer assistance in a sensitive and supportive way.

The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence identified early intervention in family violence by universal services as vital to our community’s efforts to end family violence.

Read DV Vic’s new report, Expanding early interventions in family violence in Victoria.

3. Crisis Response

When is a crisis response needed?

When a woman and her children need support to stay safe from someone using family violence against them. This may be when the woman is still in the relationship, is planning to leave, or when she has already left.

Why is it important?

The risks to victims of family violence are high and can be fatal. In the first instance, a crisis response is important because it prevents harm and saves lives. As well as that, with the right support, women and children can recover and thrive after family violence.

Critical points about Crisis Response

  • When a woman is seeking support for the first time, the initial response is critical. If it isn’t handled well, she may be reluctant to seek support again and remains at risk of harm.20 If the response is handled well, the chances of her building a new safe life in whatever way works for her are high.
  • For first responses to work well:
    • the woman must be believed and her experiences taken seriously
    • her rights must be upheld and her safety protected
    • she must have accessible options and be supported to make safe changes for herself and her children
    • she mustn’t be judged, or experience any disadvantage if she chooses to return to the relationship
    • she must have timely access to resources and support.
  • Sometimes a woman will make several attempts to leave before she leaves permanently and safely.

Who can provide a crisis response?

In Victoria, the people who work in specialist family violence services are highly skilled in understanding what women and children experiencing family violence are going through and how to help them keep safe. They know the wider family violence system and how to navigate the different services and support that women and children need.

How do specialist family violence services work?

Specialist family violence services provide front line support for women and children experiencing family violence. They place the needs of women and children at the centre of their practice.

Three principles underpin their work:

  • the safety of women and children as the priority
  • women and children’s agency and empowerment
  • perpetrator accountability.

Workers have expertise in how to recognise and respond to family violence. They:

  • understand the nature and dynamics of family violence
  • work with women to assess their risk and manage their safety
  • support women to establish a new life.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call the police on 000.

In Victoria we have a diverse range of specialist family violence services.

Go to The Lookout if you are looking for specialist services in your area.

This includes services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women with disabilities, and women from refugee and immigrant communities.

What specialist family violence services do

Whether it is responding to referrals from Victoria Police (L17s), referrals from another organisation (e.g. GP, health service etc.), or a call from a woman themselves, a specialist family violence worker will:

  • talk to the woman about her experience
  • assess her level of risk
  • offer information and options for support.

If the woman wants support, the family violence worker will do a comprehensive risk assessment and provide case management to help her make decisions about what she wants to do next.

Case management might include:

  • Working with the woman if she chooses to stay in their relationship, to help them and their children remain safe
  • Assisting the woman to remain safely in the family home when her violent partner has been removed
  • Arranging crisis accommodation for women and children seeking refuge from violent perpetrators
  • Assisting the woman to find safe and affordable housing and to relocate, including private rental brokerage assistance
  • Advocate for the woman as she navigates the complex legal and service system
  • Supporting women attending court and seeking legal assistance
  • Assisting women to find employment, education and training, and access Centrelink entitlements
  • Providing telephone support including after-hours
  • Working with other professionals in the woman’s life to keep her and her children safe.

Specialist family violence services also:

  • Provide therapeutic programs including individual and group counselling for women, and therapeutic and practical support for children
  • Organise shelter for pets affected by family violence
  • Support women whose partners are attending men’s behaviour change programs.