Home' Phillip Island and San Remo Advertiser : May 17, 2017 Contents THE ADVERTISER, WEDNESDAY, MAY 17, 2017 - PAGE 21
Nowhere to go: women in danger
THERE are women in our com-
munity who experience the danger-
ous situation of an abusive relation-
ship. Some are in crisis situations
Of concern is the fact that these
women feel there is little support
and limited options for them to re-
move themselves from the stressful
and unsafe environment they live
There are women we work with,
and women we see at our schools,
and cafes who are living in fear of
their lives. Others are still trying to
move on from the traumatic memo-
ries of abuse.
If we find injured wildlife there
are signs alerting us to the phone
numbers to call, where dedicated
volunteers consult their helpful da-
tabases, and promptly take the ani-
mals to a shelter.
But who does a woman call when
she fears for her life? Where does
she immediately flee to with her
children when it’s too unsafe to
sleep through the night? Does she
call a welfare service that is closed
after office hours, and closed on
How can we all help?
‘I Swear’ campaign
doesn’t go far enough
Jenny (not her real name) has
been through the horror of domes-
tic violence with her children.
“The ‘I Swear’ campaign is heav-
ily touted, which is fantastic, ” she
“But it’s just making folks think
there’s awareness. Did you realise
that there is no emergency crisis
accommodation for women and
their children in the Bass Coast re-
“Women are being told that if vio -
lence starts, to be prepared to leave
by always having a bag packed, and
their phone charged, so they are
ready to go quickly.
“Women are told DHS will take
their children from them because
they continue to stay. But there is
nowhere to go. ”
Jenny believes the campaign mes-
sage should be changed to: ‘I Swear
to open my empty premises/holiday
home for a month a year for women
in crisis. ”
While Jenny says there are lo-
cal support agencies available, or-
ganisations such as SalvoCare and
Childfirst close on weekends and
public holidays, and advise women
to call the police if they need any-
“The domestic violence issue is
‘trendy’ right now, and men get
around wearing the ‘I Swear’ badg-
es like heroes, but I’ll bet they’ve
never had their beaten-up daughter
at their front door. When you live
it you hide it. That’s a sad fact!”
Jenny wishes to remain anony-
mous now that she has moved on
with her life. She doesn’t want her
boss and organisation to know
about her past, for fear it may jeop-
ardise her current professional ca-
For Jenny the ‘I Swear’ campaign
is a haunting reminder in her daily
life, even though the violence is now
in her past. It’s with her every time
she rounds the corner to her home,
and sees her ex-partner’s car there.
“I swear to God one day I’ll be
able to feel like I’m in control, and
a protector of my kids.
“I just have to wait a little longer,”
Melinda (not her real name) was
just a young mum when she faced
the stress of an abusive relation-
ship. She was left with little sup-
port living here.
“After the two times my ex-hus-
band was arrested, Salvocare con-
tacted me,” she said.
“After a short phone call to me,
they decided I didn’t require as-
sistance, counselling, or extra sup-
port. There were no follow ups. I ’m
not sure if this is usual, but it’s my
experience with it.”
Melinda was living in Cowes at
the time, and says the only help she
was offered was from DHS.
“The school told me if I didn’t get
a full AVO (Apprehended Violence
Order) on my husband that DHS
would need to remove the kids
from my care, even though he was
kicked out the night of the second
“As I had a rental house and a
job, I wasn’t seen as in crisis, so
therefore they believed I didn’t re-
quire extra help.
“I was suddenly down $75,000
a year with the family income
now gone. I was living in a house
I couldn’t afford, with holes in the
wall from my husband.
“My children had heard every-
thing, and saw their father being
taken away in a police car.
“After his arrest, my husband
got bail the following morning. He
still hasn’t faced court for break-
ing the AVOs. It’s been almost 18
months, so I imagine the case will
get dropped now,” she said.
“It’s of concern for our commu-
nity that a person can be violent.
There is limited consequence for
the perpetrator, and the victim is
not offered extra assistance. ”
There are programs such as Vic-
tims of Crime, and counselling
options for the children who wit-
nessed stressful events.
However, Melinda says her chil-
dren were not offered any assis-
“Counselling was not offered for
myself or the kids. My husband
wasn’t allowed to see his kids alone
until he was mentally cleared. It
didn’t take long for him to find a
counsellor to write a letter saying
he was alright to have his children
Melinda wants to remain anony-
mous. She does not want to be
judged or talked about.
“At the time of the crisis I didn’t
get much support from anyone out-
side my family, ” she said.
“My place of work wasn’t under-
standing, even to the point of losing
my job from the depression that
followed. My boss didn’t like that
the police came into the workplace.
I needed to leave work once on my
break, to go to the police station.
“Otherwise either no one knew, or
they pretended they didn’t. There
were rumours spread about at the
time too. Being such a small town,
the whisperings seemed to get
Hidden in many
socio - economic homes
Debbie (not her real name) spent
15 years in an abusive marriage
and yet had no idea where to even
start looking for help.
“There was one particular night
where he’d driven off and left me
so I had to walk home,” she said.
“I had decided that when I got
home I would grab the kids, the
animals, and drive to the airport
hoping that on the way my parents
could organise a flight for us all to
“Only when I got home he’d
locked me out.
“I don’t know at what point in
those years that I switched off. I be-
came almost a zombie in a way and
everything came second to making
sure he didn’t lose his temper. ”
Debbie says the first battle in
fighting domestic violence is get-
ting a woman to recognise when
she needs to look at the options for
“My guess is that a good 90 per
cent don’t, until it’s too late.”
Debbie admits she is here today
because her husband finally left
“I t was the third time he left. With
the police and CAT team involved,
and a violence order against him, I
finally changed the locks and made
plans to relocate.
“I still didn’t understand or know
what my options for help were. My
blood pressure was through the
roof, and depression and anxiety
rendered me a mess, so under my
mother’s orders I saw a local GP
who put me in touch with Bass
Coast Health for counselling. ”
Six years on, Debbie is a survivor,
still travelling on a journey of recovery.
“My son still remembers being
tied to a chair with a belt to make
him eat his tea, or be kicked out-
side at night when he didn’t.
“He was three at the time. I did
virtually nothing as I was already
a zombie, and couldn’t stand up to
him. He’d already stripped every-
thing from me, including friends
and a lot of family.”
Debbie wants people to know that
domestic violence affects people
across the community, on many
“I lived in a $2 million house in
inner-Melbourne. All my children
attended a renowned and expensive
private school,” she said.
“There’s a hell of a lot of wom-
en out there in similar situations
which will never come to light be-
cause it’s all hidden for fear of los-
ing face or social status.
“My private school friends were
the first ones to drop me and run
when the *#@$* first hit the fan!”
Debbie believes domestic violence
remains a hidden issue, largely,
and in many ways the system still
can’t deal with it.
She believes there is not enough
knowledge or information out there.
“Domestic violence isn’t just
“I t’s emotional abuse and finan-
cial abuse. My ex withheld mainte-
nance until I had essentially paid
off the cost of his lawyer. The is-
sue is like an iceberg, and everyone
only sees the top that’s poking out
of the water, not what’s underneath.
“Services don’t really understand
how to help you long term. I think
many women believe their situation
is not bad enough to warrant ask-
ing for help, when in fact it’s likely
worse than a person who has never
been subjected to violence could
By Natasha Crestani
The court system is necessarily confronting at times but for victims
of crime and family violence order applicants, help and a friendly
word is at hand, at the local courts in Wonthaggi and Korumburra in
the form of Salvation Army Chaplain, Joan Spencer. Thanking her
for her efforts, to mark National Volunteers Week (May 8-14) and Law
Week Victoria (May 15-21) this week were local lawyer Deb Leonard
and police prosecutor Acting Sergeant Louise Gerard.
Use the sisterhood for support
SUE Chadwick has lived on Phillip
Island since 1976.
She has a timely message for any
local women living in an unsafe en-
“Get together with other women,
and form a self-help group. Women
feel they can have hope in a group.
There’s power in a group. Have a
spokesperson to ask the council
what options are available here for
women in a dangerous situation.”
Sue should know.
In the 1980s she was instrumental
in assisting a woman living in a dan-
gerous situation, along with a small
group of other friends in the com-
Sue and a group of other mums
formed the Phillip Island Childcare
Association and Community House
back when there were no such ser-
“A woman came up to me in the car
park,” she said.
“She knew I belonged to the Swim-
ming Club Committee, and the Child-
care Association, so she trusted that
I could be of support.
“She and her children had been
regularly abused by her husband.
She was terrified, and told me: ‘I’ve
got 10 minutes while he’s at the pub!’
“Myself and another woman raced
to the woman’s house, packed every-
thing she would need into cases, and
brought her with two children to my
house. “We did it in about 10 min-
For a few days, the family lived in
hiding at Sue’s house.
“We had a back room with a couch
area and chairs. She stayed under a
table with her children. Each time
she heard a loud noise or a car, she
would start shaking, just hiding
there like it was a cave.
“Her parents lived interstate, and
she knew that if she went to the air-
port to travel to another location, he
would come after her.
“We were later able to get her onto
a local plane and get her out to safety.
“During the extremely volatile situ-
ation, the husband was going about
the community looking for her.
“He never found out who had
helped his wife, and where she had
With the support of her commu-
nity, this woman had the opportunity
to start a new life in another state.
Within a few months, she sent Sue
“She wrote that I saved her life, and
her children’s lives,” said Sue.
Raise your voice
Sue believes it’s never too late to
be strong enough to ask for help.
“There’s not always going to be a
service or place to go to. Raise your
voice, and let this community know
what services are needed.
“I fear for these women. It’s a long
journey, but it’s much harder alone.
“There must be a network, and most
people will be helpful. ”
Current options for support
1. PICAL’s pantry in Cowes pro-
vides emergency relief to anyone in
need of food.
2. SalvoCare provides help for peo-
ple who are homeless or may become
so. However, the Eastern head office
looks after Phillip Island and is in
Frankston. The service is only open
weekdays until 4.30pm. Phone 1800
3. St Vincent De Paul in Cowes can
assist with emergency accommoda-
tion and financial relief. They are
only open Mondays, Wednesdays and
Fridays and a message must be left
before 1pm. Phone 5952 6857.
4. Bass Coast Health in San Remo
offers emergency food, fuel and
phone vouchers. They also provide
help for drug and alcohol abuse,
family violence, mental health is-
sues, nurse visits, and general coun-
selling. Call during office hours at
5. Lifeline on 131 114.
Ideas for help
Some ideas for support and help
from residents in our community:
1. A database of holiday homes
that are available suddenly on a
short-term rent or stay for women
who are in a crisis. Particularly in
the low season, this would be a good
2. A closed Facebook group page to
act as a “middle service” where wom-
en in a crisis can privately message
their needs. The group managers can
then advise locations for women to
go that are pre-screened as being ap-
3. The number of a close friend,
co -worker or family member who
can be on standby to get a woman
out of the situation, or act as a wit-
4. For those who fear that their
phone may be taken away from
them, encourage them to memorise
all important numbers so, if need be,
they can call from a public phone, or
someone else’s phone.
5. In violent or emergency situa-
tions, a woman may not be able to
text or say much. Have an agreed
‘safe’ word or phrase with a close
friend, co -worker, or family mem-
ber who agrees to have their phone
on standby to receive any emergency
calls and texts. Keep it short and
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