Empowering survivors and educating youth against domestic and family violence

Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) is a pervasive community-wide issue, with the Queensland Police Service (QPS) responding to an average of 330 DFV occurrences every day.

As well as responding to incidents, protecting victims and holding perpetrators to account however, the QPS takes an active role in educating young people and empowering survivors to reach out.

DFV requires society, community organisations and government-all of us-to work together to achieve positive change.

The QPS works in partnership with PCYC Queensland (PCYC) and Queensland Blue Light to support the delivery of the RUBY and Elevate programs.

RUBY-Rise Up, Be Yourself- was informed by the work of a QPS officer who had personal experience with DFV and discovered that physical fitness was a way to regain confidence and control over her life.

This experience, teamed with the knowledge of program development and delivery, enabled PCYC to create RUBY.

RUBY is a free physical fitness program run by selected PCYC clubs across the state for women who are, have been, or are likely to experience DFV.

It is designed to empower women by building physical strength and contributing to general well-being, emotional resilience, self-esteem and confidence through physical exercise in a safe, violence-free environment.

Sessions are facilitated by a qualified, female personal trainer and a female police officer attends and participates in the sessions.

Sergeant Julia Henderson, Branch Manager of the Emerald PCYC, supported the development of the program and said the benefits were more than just physical fitness.

“RUBY gives participants a different outlet and tools to combat the DFV cycle by fostering connected relationships with other women in a safe, group environment,” Sergeant Henderson said.

“RUBY can be a conduit for the needs of the women, and it helps to create a culture of change and facilitate them to a place of survivorship.

“Through informal discussion during and after the sessions, we can provide support and link participants into existing local services.

“For many, the connection with other women in a supportive environment is a shift from the years of isolation they may have experienced through DFV.”

A group of children and a police officer gather in a group activity
Children in the ELEVATE program learn to make good choices in their personal relationships

While RUBY has been running in PCYCs since 2016, Queensland Blue Light’s ELEVATE program has been developed more recently as a way of connecting with high school students who may be experiencing or witnessing DFV in their family or circle of friends.

ELEVATE is a DFV primary prevention program designed to educate young people of the social, personal, physical and emotional harms of DFV and empower them to make better life choices in their relationships.

It is targeted to Years 10, 11 and 12, with pilot programs running in four schools in south-east Queensland since late 2020.

The program is delivered in four sessions to groups of up to 25 students, both male and female.

It is run in conjunction with Queensland Blue Light, with a QPS officer, a Queensland Blue Light worker and a school staff member attending each session.

Acting Sergeant Cherie McLean, Gold Coast PCYC Manager, said the program was developed so police could share their knowledge and experience with students to help them recognise the signs of DFV and know where to get help.

“When teenagers become adults, they are somehow expected to know what a healthy relationship looks like and what is not healthy,” Acting Sergeant McLean said.

“As police, we have all this experience from responding to and investigating DFV and we needed to find a way to increase awareness in young people.

“The more information we can give them, the better informed they’ll be and hopefully seek help for themselves or someone close to them.

“They learn what constitutes DFV and where to seek help if they, their family members or their friends are experiencing DFV.”

The four sessions include guest presentations from a police officer working in the DFV and Vulnerable Persons Unit as well as from a community member who is a survivor of DFV.

ELEVATE is also able to share some of the course content from the highly acclaimed Love Bites program.

Anonymous hands come together in support
RUBY is one program that provides support to women who have been affected by DFV

The QPS is committed to protecting and supporting victims of DFV.

Collaborating with community organisations to deliver programs such as RUBY and ELEVATE is helping to empower and encourage victims to reach out for help, as well as educating community members on how to play their part in recognising the signs and preventing DFV.

To achieve real and lasting positive cultural change, all levels of society need to be involved and take action against DFV. We need to work, all of us, together.

If you or someone you know is being impacted by domestic and family violence, we encourage you to report it to police or access support services.

Don’t be a bystander – everyone has a role to play in preventing domestic and family violence.

If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic and family violence, please reach out.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic and family violence, you should report it to police.

Support and counselling is available from the following agencies:

More information is also available from the Queensland Government Domestic and Family Violence portal.

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