Preventing Family Violence in Rural Australia: Relationships Booklet
This booklet was reproduced by the National Rural Women’s Coalition (NRWC) as part of its Helping Prevent Family Violence in Rural Australia project. The original edition of this booklet was written and produced by the Domestic Violence & Incest Resource Centre (DVIRC) Victoria, with assistance from the Victorian Women’s Trust and the Lance Reichstein Foundation. The booklet is provided here on WWDA’s website in HTML format to promote accessibility of the material. The Booklet is also available in a PDF version
People want different things from a relationship. Some want a casual relationship, some want romance, some want sex, and others want someone to be close to.
It can take time to find someone who wants the same as you.
Then there’s pressures from friends and family about relationships. Like if all your friends have boyfriends I girlfriends and you don’t. Or if your family don’t want you to be in a relationship. And what if you’re attracted to someone of the same sex?
With all these pressures, it’s hard to work out what you want . Sometimes you might find yourself just going along with what other people want.
Remember, it’s ok to take your time, and to ask yourself:
- what do I want from a relationship?
- what don’t I want?
- What qualities do I like in a person?
- what don’t I like?
A healthy relationship is when:
- you have fun together
- you both feel able to be yourself
- you can have different opinions and interests
- you can listen to each other
- you can both compromise, say sorry, and talk arguments out
- you don’t have to spend all your spare time together. You can spend time alone or with friends or family.
A healthy relationship is based on RESPECT.
Someone respects you when they accept that you have a right to do and say what you want.
If someone is treating you with respect, you feel:
- free to say no to things you don’t want to do
- safe and never scared
- free to see other friends & family when you want
- free to express your opinions and beliefs
- free to change your mind
- good about yourself
- supported to make your own decisions
- free to end the relationship if you want to.
Think about how you feel in your relationship, or in your friendships. If you don’t always feel like this, maybe you are not being treated with respect.
Being around people who respect you and accept you for who you are helps to build your confidence.
You deserve to be treated with respect.
Having a good relationship doesn’t mean you have to have sex. But whatever you do, whether it is kissing, touching, or having sex, it should always be something that you both want to do.
Sex is meant to be:
- something you decide to do when you’re ready to
- something that makes you both feel good
- something you can interrupt or stop
- safe (because you’re prepared with condoms to protect you from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy).
Sex isn’t meant to be:
- the only way to prove that you love someone
- something you feel pressured or forced into
- something you do because ‘everyone else is doing it’
- something that makes you feel used.
Remember, if you’ve been kissing or touching but don’t want to go any further, that’s ok. Kissing is not a contract.
Trust and communication
Trust and communication are what’s important in a sexual relationship.
- How well do I trust this person to respect what I do and don’t want to do?
- How comfortable would I feel talking with them about safe sex and contraception?
- How comfortable would I be saying no to them?
Someone who loves you should respect your right to decide if and when to have sex.
If you don’t feel ready to have sex, you could say ‘I do love you but I don’t feel ready to have sex yet’.
Sex and Pressure
“I kept on pushing his hands away but he just put them back there, then I just froze, I couldn’t say anything, it was horrible” – Trang.
What if someone has touched you or made you touch them in a sexual way, and you felt like you had no choice?
You might have:
- felt scared to say no
- felt pressured into having sex, because you thought that if you didn’t, they’d break up with you, or they wouldn’t like you
- been asleep or drunk and didn’t really know what was going on
- been forced into sexual contact.
No-one should force you into any sexual contact. In fact, it is sexual assault, and it is a crime that can be reported to the police.
Remember – they have done the wrong thing, not you.
It can help to talk to someone about it. See the ‘Contacts’ section of this page.
* Did you know – A survey found that 1 in 7 Australian teenage girls said a boyfriend had tried to force them to have sex. (Source, Young People and Domestic Violence. Canberra: National Crime Prevention, 2000).
Is This Love?
I thought our relationship was fantastic at first. But now things have started happening that I don’t understand. He gets mad at me for wanting to be with my friends. And any time he sees me speaking to any other guy he accuses me of flirting. He says it’s because he loves me. – Chris
Jealousy might seem like a sign of love, But when someone uses anger or jealousy to try to control what you do, or acts like they ‘own’ you, this isn’t love – it’s control. You’ve got every right to talk to anyone you want to.
Fill in the quiz below. It will help you to think about your relationship and whether you’re being treated right.
How do you know if you are being treated right? Be honest with yourself. Tick the statement/s that applies to you: My boyfriend or girlfriend:
______seems to like me as a person
______won’t let me to talk to other guys/girls
______respects my feelings, opinions and beliefs
______doesn’t want me to spend time with my friends or family
______makes me feel like I have to watch what I do or say
______is ok if I say no to something (including sex)
______is happy for me to make my own decisions about my life
______often puts me down or criticizes me
______tries to work out arguments by compromising or talking
______sometimes scares or hurts me by being aggressive or violent
______is happy for me to see my own friends if I want to
______might try to hurt me or themselves if I wanted to break up
______makes me feel scared to disagree or to say no to things
The statements in italics are signs of love and respect. If you are being treated right, you should have ticked all of these. If you have ticked answers in bold, then there are signs that you are not being treated right.
When Love Hurts
When someone who is supposed to love you treats you badly, it can be very hurtful.
They might not always treat you like this – sometimes they might be really nice. So you might think ‘it’s not that bad’. But you should always be treated with respect.
The first step in changing things is to understand what’s happening.
Abuse happens when one person tries to control , or hurt the other. The abuse might be physical, sexual, or emotional.
Physical abuse is when someone is violent, or threatens to hurt you (eg, pushes you, smashes things, drives dangerously to scare you, etc).
It’s against the law for someone to physically hurt you, threaten to hurt you, or force you into sexual contact. You can contact the police and the person can be charged with a crime.
Emotional Abuse includes when someone:
- checks up on what you are doing all the time
- stops you seeing friends or family
- puts you down or humiliates you
- says they will kill themselves if you break up with them
- blackmails you (like threatening to tell your family something that you don’t want them to know)
Emotional abuse can hurt you just as much as physical or sexual abuse.
If you are being abused – It’s not your fault.
It’s important to listen to your feelings. They can help you to know if the way you are treated is Ok or not.
Think about your relationship. How is the way you are being treated making you feel? For example, in a loving relationship you might feel:
- able to be yourself
- cared for
If you are abused you might feel:
- bad about yourself
FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions about abuse)
Why are they doing this to me?
People who are abusive will often make excuses for the way they act. They might say – ‘I was just joking’, ‘You made me do it, ‘I couldn’t help it’, ‘I was drunk’.
But really, they act this way to try to control you. They pressure you or scare you as a way of getting you to do what they want. Guys often think they have a right to dominate their girlfriends, to be ‘the boss’. But they haven’t.
How can I get them to change?
The abuse will stop when the abusive person decides to start respecting your rights. But you can’t change them, or their attitude. Only they can. Unfortunately, most people who have been abused say it keeps happening, and gets worse, not better. It’s important to think about your own safety – things could get more dangerous than they are now.
Am I causing them to abuse me?
No. The abuse is not your fault. Even if they feel upset or angry with you about something, they could deal with these feelings by talking to you or to their friends or family. They don’t have to treat you like this.
A True Story
Jose didn’t want me to go anywherewithout him. At first I thought it was cute that he missed me. After awhile I started to see the real him. He started to control what I wore, where I went and who I chilled with.
One day I was late to meet him and he was so angry that he hit me. Afterwards he said he was sorry, he loved me so much he’d kill himself if we broke up. But then things got worse. A month later we got into an argument and he nearly killed me – he strangled me and I started to black out. The next thing I remember was him on top of me: begging me to forgive him.
I’d been scared to tell anyone, but I just couldn’t take it any more. I told my best friend and she helped me to see that he wasn’t going to change. Then I rang him and said I didn’t want to see him. He kept trying to come around and I ended up having to tell my mum about him, so she didn’t let him in the house. It’s been hard, but I feel stronger now I’m not seeing him.
If I knew someone who was being abused I’d say that you might think that it was only a once off, but it’s not. Be careful. If there’s someone you trust to tell then do it – it will make you feel so much better. – Stef
Should I stay or should I go?
Working out whether to stay or break up can be a hard decision.
Maybe you still love them, or you feel like you’d be nothing without them. Maybe you feel trapped, or scared of what they might do if you leave.
Talking to someone can help you decide what to do. You don’t have to go through this alone. Talk to a friend, a family member, a teacher, or a counsellor (see the ‘Contacts’ section of this page for ideas).
Have a break from the relationship, if you can, or don’t see each other as much. Give yourself time to think. It can help to write your feelings down.
Ask yourself these questions…
- How is being in this relationship affecting me?
- What would be the good things about breaking up?
- What would be the bad things?
- What would be the good things about staying?
- What would be the bad things?
- Are things getting worse?
Safety Plan Ideas
Whether you decide to break up or stay, be prepared for any possible danger they could put you in.
- Tell friends, family, teachers or workmates, and ask for them to help protect you
- Try not to be alone with the person who is abusive
- Stay aware of what’s going on. Try not to drink or use other drugs. Listen to your feelings – if you start to feel unsafe, leave as soon as you can
- Have an excuse prepared so you can leave quickly if you feel intimidated
- If you are out, arrange your own way home, rather than going with them. Take phone and transport money
- Use an answering machine or get someone else to screen your phone calls
- Call the police on 000 if you are in danger. Violence is a crime and your boyfriend or girlfriend can be charged.
- Apply for an Intervention Order. This is a court order that says the abusive person isn’t allowed to abuse you again. Also, the order could say that they aren’t allowed to come near you or contact you. If they disobey the order, the police can charge them with a criminal offence. Ring a service in the back of this booklet to find out more.
- Contact a counselling service for help to make a safety plan. See the back pages of this booklet.
Your self-esteem is the value you give yourself.
The way others treat you can affect your self-esteem:
- Things that help to build your self-esteem, don’t be hard on yourself, or focus on mistakes
- don’t blame yourself for the way other people act focus on positive things.
Things I’ve done that I feel proud of are…………………………
What I like about myself is………………………………………..
My favourite things are……………………………………………
Some things that I’d like to do in my life are………………………..
- You are important.
- You don’t have to match up to anyone’s standards except your own.
- You have the right to express your racial or cultural beliefs.
- You have the right to have your own feelings, opinions and friends.
- You deserve love and respect.
After I split up from Nick I got my confidence back, and I started to hang out with my friends again.
Even though sometimes I did miss him a lot, I didn’t miss all the shit he put me through.
Now a year later I’ve got a new boyfriend who I really love and trust, he’s like one of my best friends, I can tell him anything. He just wants us to have fun together, there’s no pressure, and he doesn’t make a big deal of it if I don’t want to do what he wants. I can be myself with him. – Ana
Who Can I Talk To?
You could talk to a friend , a sister or brother, your parents, a teacher or a counsellor.
Whoever you talk to shouldn’t judge or criticise you.
Counsellors can listen and give you support and ideas. It’s ok to feel nervous about ringing a service. If so, you could ring first and ask about how their service works, before you talk about what’s been happening. You don’t have to give your name if you don’t want to. Counsellors will keep what you tell them private (except if they think you are in immediate danger).
Family members and friends can ring a service for advice on how to help too.
Websites and Contact numbers that can help
Helpline – Violence Against Women: Australia Says No! Call this confidential 24 hour help helpline to talk with experienced counsellors. Ph: 1800 200 526. www.australiasaysno.qov.au
When Love Hurts – ideas & legal info, stories & advice from other people who have experienced abuse. www.dvirc.orq.au/whenlove
Bursting the Bubble – if things are not ok in your family. www.burstingthebubble.com
Kids Help Line – email and online counselling – email a counsellor for help & support. www.kidshelp.com.au Ph 1800 55 1800 (24hrs)
Australia Wide Ph: 1800 200 526
New South Wales
Domestic Violence 1800 656 463
Sexual Assault 1800 424 017
Domestic Violence 1800 019 116
Sexual Assault (Darwin) (08) 8922 7156
Sexual Assault (Alice Springs) (08) 8951 5880
Domestic Violence 1800 800 098
Sexual Assault 1800 817 421
Domestic Violence 1800 007 339
Sexual Assault 1800 199 888
Domestic Violence (02) 6280 0900
Sexual Assault (02) 6247 2525
Domestic Violence 1800 811 811
Sexual Assault 1800 010 120
Domestic Violence 1800 633 937
Sexual Assault (Southern) (03) 6231 1811
Sexual Assault (Northern) (03) 6334 2740
Sexual Assault (North West) (03) 6431 9711
Domestic Violence Melbourne (03) 9373 0123
Domestic Violence Rural 1800 015 188
Sexual Assault 1800 806 292
The reprinting of this resource has been funded by the Australian Government’s Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault Initiative through the Office for Women. The Australian Government accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of any material contained in this resource and recommends that users exercise their own skill and care with respect to its use. The material contained in this resource does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government.