Domestic violence outside the domestic sphere: An organisational response to domestic violence occurring during homelessness in young people.
Considerable research and literature discusses domestic violence (DV) as a cause of homelessness. Limited literature explores DV occurring during homelessness in young people. Even the term ‘domestic violence’ makes an assumption about the spatial environment in which DV occurs, which can result in people who are experiencing DV during homelessness being overlooked. The lack of research regarding co-occurring DV and homelessness in young people is reflected in domestic and family violence literature, which primarily examines the experiences of adult women and their children who were housed prior to leaving a violent relationship. Additionally, discussion regarding co-occurring DV and homelessness are absent in both The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children and the Rudd Government’s ‘White paper on homelessness’.
Brisbane Youth Service (BYS), as a holistic provider of homelessness interventions for young people, is positioned to reflect on experiences of working with young people who both experience and perpetrate violence within their intimate relationships while they are homeless. In the 2015-16 financial year 58% of young people who were homeless reported current or past relationship violence at intake assessment. Nearly one quarter of young people (24.5%) acknowledged that they had used violent, threatening or intimidating behaviours themselves and 40% of young people reported that they wanted help with violence-related issues. This data makes it clear that young people not only experience and perpetrate relationship violence but want to seek help regarding these experiences.
Young women experiencing violence during homelessness have reported unique challenges including difficulty leaving their partner due to fear of experiencing violence from other people, seeking out or staying with partners who are known to be violent or intimidating in order to protect themselves from other forms of violence whilst living on the streets, and finally, having difficulty finding safe spaces away from their partner when neither has a fixed address.
Through listening to the stories of young people BYS has developed its practice and skills in holding young people perpetrating violence accountable, responding appropriately to people experiencing violence, supporting staff and ensuring that organisational responses do not inadvertently normalise violence. BYS has learnt that despite the complexity of this work there is much opportunity to develop practice to offer young people an appropriate response.