The genesis of “Safe at Home” principles, policies and programs came out of a recognition that it is fundamentally inequitable and an injustice for women and their children to be forced to flee and abandon their home while the perpetrator of the violence is allowed to remain. As Kerrie Soraghan et al wrote in the March 2022 edition of Parity, “‘Safe at Home’ is a social justice response underpinned by the belief that perpetrators should be held accountable for their violence and recognises the inherent unfairness of expecting that women must leave home because of violence.”
Substantial research points to the ongoing and severe disadvantage experienced by victimsurvivors who are forced to leave their home to escape violence and rely on housing and support services. Many victim-survivors leave only to be faced with a very real threat of homelessness, housing insecurity and poverty. Safe at Home is an approach which seeks to reduce the risks of homelessness, poverty and intergenerational trauma among victim-survivors by ensuring they can remain safely in their home.2 Safe at Home also represents a paradigm shift in the response to domestic and family violence. It seeks invert and reverse previously dominant processes and practices where the victim of violence is further punished and disadvantaged, while the perpetrator remains secure in a privileged position.
Despite research clearly indicating that Safe at Home responses support better life outcomes for victim-survivors of family violence, there remains a lack of consensus within Australia and internationally about what Safe at Home means, how the concept is put into practice and who is responsible for implementing it. In Australia, recent data suggests that a very small proportion of victim-survivors access a Safe at Home response, further raising questions about what we mean when we say, “Safe at Home”, how this is counted and why so few victim-survivors seem to access it? This discussion of the Safe at Home response to domestic and family violence is also premised on the recognition that the under the current system, and for the foreseeable future, there will be women and their children choosing or needing to relocate from the family home in order to minimise the potentially lethal risk of further perpetrator violence. The March edition of Parity seeks to explore these questions.