What every woman on the planet needs to know…

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Mel and I sat down for a coffee and a chat one day. I was talking about my work as a therapist and I said, ‘often, when clients come to see me, they don’t know they’ve been abused’.

Mel asked ‘how can they not know?’

This is a question that is asked a lot.

Abuse is spoken about in hushed tones, under the breath and with a bucket load of shame.

Many believe it was their fault.

They believe that life can be no different from what they have experienced.

They believe it can never get any better. So often, they are in a state of terror.

Think about this, if you were in a state of terror, racked with shame and your self-worth is at rock bottom, would you be able to think rationally? I would say no, how about you?

Abuse often is a demonstration of power and control at its most corrupted and horrible best. It humiliates, it is a robber of dignity and erodes self-worth.  

Victims are groomed, set up and taken advantage of. This is a crime of devastating effects which can take years to recover from.

When I think about it, a fire stirs up in my belly, giving me the drive and passion to do the work I do. It is the reason why I became a counsellor/psychotherapist, because of my deeply held belief that there is hope on the other side of abuse. The more that is understood about abuse and the conditions in which it thrives, the greater it can be recognised for what it is, a crime.  

For this reason, I’m going to be writing about domestic/family violence specifically for the Sista Code as a series. I will be covering the defining features of verbal, emotional, sexual, physical and financial abuse. As well, I’m going to share how abuse affects people, and common myths about domestic/family violence.

To kick off this series, I going to start with ‘The Cycle of Violence’, the reasons why women stay and how you help.


Violence is not a once off event but rather a set pattern of behaviours that the abuser will use again and again. According to research by Dr Lenore Walker in 1979 which can be found on the NSW Police website, the pattern is as follows:

Build up – tension, arguments and harassment increase

Stand over – increased levels of control and threats to instil fear

Explosion – extreme use of violence, aggression and abuse used maliciously in order to exact extreme control

Remorse – abuser justifies and minimises their behaviour, shows guilt and may try to harm themselves

Pursuit – blames everything from alcohol or other substances, to other people, including the victim, promises it will never happen again, presents as a victim

Honeymoon – increased care and affection, romantic gestures, manipulative behaviour

Then cycle starts again….


Sometimes people will say, ‘if it was that bad she would leave’ or ‘she must be provoking it’. The NSW Police believe the reasons include:

  • Fear of not believed
  • Fear of the abuser minimising it to police and others after an incident
  • Fear of the abuse increasing
  • Fear loved ones would be harmed if abuse is disclosed
  • Fear of no home or financial security
  • Fear of being alone and isolated
  • Fear of shaming the family
  • Believing the abusers promises ‘it won’t happen again’
  • Belief that the abuse isn’t that bad, minimising what’s happening to them


If your relative or friend has told you they are victim, here’s what to do:

Listen to her and believe her sharing takes an enormous amount of courage.

Give her the space to make her own mind up if she goes back, tell her you are very concerned about her but respect her decision.

Direct her to local Domestic Violence Services in Newcastle contact Hunter Women’s Centre 4968 2511 or Domestic Violence Newcastle 4927 8529

Make a safety plan provide emergency numbers she can call on to escape, have a suitcase packed in a safe place for her and her children, have copies of important documents such as drives licence, birth certificates, bank statements and school records. Encourage her to record what is happening to her. Record what you witness and the things you’re being told. It is when she leaves that things become the most dangerous for her.

Find a safe place for her to stay Domestic Violence Services can help you with this.

Call 000 if you witness violence the abuser being caught in the act has a way of reducing the level of violence experienced in the moment. So do call attention to it.

If you are experiencing violence, you don’t have to put up with it. There are options for you. If you know someone who is a victim don’t judge her, support her. She needs you.

With love,

Rita xx

Rita Barnett

Rita Barnett is a counsellor/psychotherapist who loves working with women who may have had difficult relationships in the past, and want to discover new ways to have happy and fulfilled relationships in their future. Rita believes that the most important person you need to have solid relationship with is you. From that, everything else follows.


  1. sophie mill

    July 10, 2015 at 8:12 am

    ‘Abuse often is a demonstration of power and control at its most corrupted and horrible best. It humiliates, it is a robber of dignity and erodes self-worth’.

    ‘Victims are groomed, set up and taken advantage of. This is a crime of devastating effects which can take years to recover from’.

    Thank you Rita for a wonderful read.

    There are many things in life that slowly sneak up on us. Weight gain, aging, being tipsy from drinking too many wines and, of course, abuse or any kind of disrespect seemingly bites you on your bum when you’re not looking.

    The ‘frog story’ is a classic reminder of how easily it is to manipulate. ‘Put a frog in boiling water and he will instantly jump out, but bring him to the boil and he will die’. The first stage, the frog is warm and cosy – the honeymoon period. The second stage, the frog is drowsy and totally unaware – the manipulative stage. The third stage, the frog is unable to escape – the abuse stage.

    Thank you again, Sophie

  2. Jacci

    July 11, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Brilliant article Rita.
    Thank you, especially for addressing the ‘why doesn’t she just leave” attitude that continues to keep women isolated and victimised.


  3. Rita Barnett

    July 13, 2015 at 1:25 am

    Hi Sophie,

    Great comparison between the ‘frog story’ and the ‘cycle of violence’ as it’s an apt and vivid analogy to compare it with. Every piece of information that can be added to understand dv goes along way towards helping someone caught up in the cycle. Thanks for taking the time to add it to this post.

    Kind regards,


  4. Julie

    November 26, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    Thank you for your article the more this is spoken about the better.
    I have only just spoken out myself about this issue in my life, the reason I have the courage to speak up is that I now feel people will not judge me but I will receive support. Many years ago I was in a violent situation where I was punched and knocked out cold on the floor and house was trashed,Police came and saw all what had happened I had three small children at the time no family around, so they took my husband overnight and then called me early the next morning to come and pick him up. No one even called if I was OK no support nothing and you wonder why women don’t speak up. Thanks God this is changing.

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