A groundbreaking WA-led study of domestic violence victims has found some women are violently abused for up to seven years and stalked or threatened for years after their relationships ends.
Curtin University and University of South Australia researchers, who studied 650 female domestic violence victims around Australia, found victims were physically abused for an average of three years and three months, with the longest claimed abuse lasting seven years.
The researchers are spending two years studying Australian women, about 400 of whom are from capital cities.
It is one of the first in-depth studies into the effects of domestic violence on Australian women and will finish next year, when researchers plan to use it as leverage to lobby State and Federal governments for better support for domestic violence victims.
Curtin University professor Donna Chung said the results so far challenged a perception that women no longer suffered once their relationship ended. More than half of the women involved in the study were stalked, received abusive messages or phone calls, or were physically abused for an average of two years and nine months, once the relationship ended.
"Some people we've spoken to have described it as a long shadow, whereas some people think once she's out of the house it's over," Professor Chung said.
The study has also revealed some of the women who had held professional jobs were forced on to welfare payments because the years of abuse meant they were no longer fit to work.
Some had quit work to care for their mentally scarred children - some of whom had seen the physical violence against their mothers.
Women's Council chief executive Angela Hartwig said the findings were consistent with information from WA's women's refuges.
Ms Hartwig said some Perth women were staying in violent relationships for more than 20 years.
"Until the victims are safe and confident to talk about it, the abuse can go on for decades," she said.