Domestic and family violence (DFV) can affect anyone, including people in previously healthy relationships. Senior Constable Ben Bjarnesen received a Churchill Fellowship to conduct research into enhancing the Queensland Police Service (QPS) response to domestic and family violence. He also has personal experience of an unhealthy relationship. Ben shares his own story and offers advice for anyone experiencing DFV.
At the time, I didn’t identify my experience as domestic violence because initially there was no physical violence.
My partner threw things around the house, became jealous and displayed sudden outbursts of anger.
However, I didn’t think it was domestic violence.
I made excuses for him and his behaviour.
We also enjoyed some great times together, which made it harder to recognise the situation as abuse.
However, while reading an online domestic violence resource, I completed a relationship checklist and it struck me that I was in an abusive relationship.
Once I acknowledged the existence of domestic violence, I started to take the necessary steps to leave the relationship.
I learnt from my personal experience that domestic violence can take many forms and that it can affect anyone.
It does not discriminate and can affect you regardless of your sexuality, gender identity, occupation, social status or income.
Historically, DFV campaigns spoke of domestic and family violence as a heterosexual issue. Generally, campaigns portray women and children as victims and men as perpetrators.
As a result, I didn’t perceive myself as a victim of domestic violence.
Leaving an unhealthy relationship
When I finally identified my experience as unhealthy, I still avoided talking to anyone about it because of embarrassment and shame.
Then, when I left my partner, he threatened to commit suicide.
While it was deeply distressing, I recognised it as another attempt to control me.
Perpetrators of domestic and family violence commonly employ threats of self-harm.
I’ve come across this on many occasions in my work.
(Ben volunteers as a QPS LGBTI Liaison Officer. In addition to their regular duties, Liaison Officers provide support and assistance to LGBTI community members when dealing with police matters. Liaison Officers frequently assist in cases of DFV in the LGBTI communities.)
If a person is fearful of what could happen if they leave a relationship, I encourage them to seek assistance. There is help available.
Various factors influence the decision to leave, including the financial situation and a personal assessment of the stress involved.
Whilst ending a relationship is daunting, in my own personal experience the only regret is that I never left earlier.
Support services can assist with safety planning.
Police and other organisations such as the LGBTI Legal Service can assist with applying for a Domestic Violence Order if a person requires protection.
DV Orders can include conditions such as prohibiting the perpetrator from attending the aggrieved person’s home or workplace, from contacting the aggrieved by any means of communication, or from approaching within a certain distance of the aggrieved in any place.
If you identify your relationship as unhealthy
Firstly, look after yourself.
Understand that you are not to blame for your partner’s behaviour. They are solely responsible for their own actions.
There is no one correct answer for what someone can do if they are in an abusive relationship.
People may want to leave but don’t know how to, or don’t feel safe enough to take those steps. It’s important to remember that help is available – reach out for support.
It took me a number of attempts to leave my relationship. On one occasion I returned because the perpetrator promised to drink less, see a psychologist and change his behaviour.
I wanted to believe in him. However, the cycle continued and after a short ‘honeymoon period’, the abuse reoccurred.
I strongly suggest talking to someone. There is always help available, whether from a friend or family member, an LGBTI Liaison Officer, or a support service.
If you or someone you know is at risk of domestic and family violence:
Find more information about what a healthy relationship looks like at qld.gov.au/LGBTIQendDFV
Talk to a friend or family member you can trust.
Talk to a counsellor. Develop a safety plan to protect yourself. Search ‘safety plan’ at qld.gov.au for information.
Get in touch with a LGBTI Police Liaison Officer by calling PoliceLink on 131 444.
There are dedicated officers around the state and PoliceLink will identify a liaison officer in your area.
Support for Queensland women is available from the DVConnect Womensline on 1800 811 811. (24 hours a day, seven days a week).
Support for Queensland men is available on the DVConnect Mensline on 1800 600 636. (9 am to midnight, seven days a week).
Call Diverse Voices on 1800 184 527 (3 pm to midnight, seven days a week).
Diverse Voices is a peer to peer phone and internet counselling service focused on the diverse voices that make up our communities.
In an emergency call Triple Zero (000) and ask for the Police.
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