A safe haven

MAY is domestic violence prevention month.

A time to reflect on the disturbing number of women sexually and physically abused or murdered by their partner or ex-partner.

One in six Australian women have experienced family and domestic violence, and for decades Fremantle-based Ruah Community Services has been a strong advocate on the issue.

CEO Debra Zanella says the organisation is part of the Safe at Home program, which ensures victims of domestic violence aren’t at risk from ex-partners and abusers.

“It means women escaping domestic violence are not reliant on refuges and temporary accommodation,” Ms Zanella says.

The program is welcomed by Melville local “Grace”, who took her young son and fled from her violent husband.

She recently took part in Ruah’s Voice For Change program, which trains women to talk publicly about their experience of domestic violence.

It took five men to die to get ‘one punch’ legislation introduced, and the same pressure and public debate should be applied to domestic violence, Grace says.

“It can’t be acceptable for anyone: It should be zero tolerance for violence against women and children.”

Family and domestic violence costs taxpayers an estimated $26 billion a year, Ms Zanella says.

“Everyone in the community has a role to play. Speak up and challenge inappropriate behaviour and stereotypes and make it a priority to increase your own awareness of the cost of domestic violence.”

Simone McGurk, minister for prevention of family and domestic violence, said Safe at Home programs provide critical and life-saving services.

“Specialist workers undertake safety planning that includes security assessments and upgrades to homes, such as changing locks, installing surveillance cameras and panic buttons in high-risk circumstances,” she says.

“Giving women and children the option of remaining in their home and community, when it is safe to do so, means they are close to support networks and less disruption to their routines and responsibilities. This kind of approach is central to shifting the accountability for violence onto the perpetrator.

“The state government through the department of communities funds six agencies to provide Safe at Home type programs.

“The state government is also providing emergency funding to a similar Commonwealth program – Keeping Women Safe in their Home – to ensure services can continue to operate after the Commonwealth let funding lapse in October last year.

“The Lucy Saw Centre is funded to provide Safe at Home in South West Metro and Ruah is funded to provide Safe at Home in South East Metro.”

by JENNY D’ANGER

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