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stop press     1 July 2007

From July 2007 the Bega Staying Home Leaving Violence pilot became a funded project receiving funding from the Department of Community Services Community Services Division.  The promised rollout of a further 16 SHLV services will begin in the next twelve months.

background

 

Pilot Description

Auspiced by Bega Women’s Refuge, the Bega Valley Staying Home Leaving Violence Pilot was funded by the NSW Department of Community Services and was one of three similar pilots planned for the State. The establishment stage lasted from October 2004 to May 2005. In the following18 months support was provided to clients. In November 2006 the Bega Valley SHLV Pilot won a NSW Violence Against Women Prevention Award. The Pilot was evaluated in December 2006. The Evaluation Report will be available in March.

 

 

Pilot Objectives

The aim of the Pilot was to test the conditions necessary for women and children who have experienced family violence to stay safely in their own homes. This may have required the removal and exclusion of the violent partner. The goal was the longterm stability of women and children in the security of their own homes and communities.

 

Governments and agencies across Australia have become increasingly concerned by the effects of homelessness on the victims of domestic and family violence, particularly children, if they leave home as a consequence of the violence. This has led to a number of research projects into the problem. Staying Home, Leaving Violence (2004), research conducted by Robin Edwards for the University of NSW and the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse, tested a number of assumptions about women leaving domestic violence:

 

  • leaving violence means leaving home;

  • it is not safe for women to remain in their homes; and that

  • the perpetrator will not leave the home. 

 

Part of the brief for the Pilot was to trial the Safety Framework designed by this research to support women and children remaining safely at home.

To look at the research go to www.austdvclearinghouse.unsw.edu.au.

 

 

The stages: research, establishment, partnership and support

 

The Pilot drew on the experiences of a number of successful programs in other States which support women and children who have experienced family violence and have stayed safely in their own homes. These included the Victorian Eastern Domestic Violence Outreach Program (see their presentation), the ACT Family Violence Intervention Program (for more information contact the Office of the Victims of Crime Coordinator, vocc@act.gov.au) and the Home Safe Domestic Violence Strategy, Holden Hill Police Local Service Area in South Australia.

 

 

From their experiences we established some essential conditions for success:

  • Protocols between key agencies to ensure a coordinated response to domestic or family violence

  • A local community campaign to increase awareness of and support for the option of staying home safely

  • The provision of outreach support for all parties

  • Safety plans for the women and children which may include enhanced home security: the changing of locks, installation of a phone alarm linked to key agencies, and security doors

  • A thorough assessment of the program based on data collection and evaluation.

 

Based on a review of national best practice, it was important to communicate locally the message that the home could be a safe place. This was undertaken through an intensive media campaign, by consulting with local agencies, networks and community groups, by providing a series of open training workshops and a day forum attended by over one hundred people from the region, and from NSW and other states. At this stage, a special consultation took place with the Aboriginal community of the Bega Valley, who contributed greatly to the ‘whole of family’ approach of the Pilot.
(click here to view
a power point presentation that has been presented to various services to provide information on the processes that the pilots experienced in setting up a SHLV service)

 

The next stage was the development of partnerships with key agencies, particularly the local police area command and the courthouses. This included the sharing of data, training of personnel, and joint processes to ensure the safety of women and children.

 

After six months the Pilot progressed to the stage of providing support to clients. Risk assessment procedures were tested, and practical security measures were installed such as new locks, security doors, sensor lights, and phone alarms. One significant feature of the demographic of the clients was that often these were women who have not accessed domestic violence services in the past. They were generally older and employed. We know that less than 5% of women who experience domestic violence contact a crisis service (ABS Women’s Safety Survey 1996). We hoped we were offering support to this huge group.

 

 The Pilot also provided support across the Bega Valley Shire, filling the gap of outreach support to a new client group, and thus increasing the options for women and children. The second stage of the Pilot evaluation reported a high level of client satisfaction. 

 

This pilot was inspired by the experiences of local women.

Here is the story told by one at our Bega Forum:

 

 

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to tell you my story.

 

Nine years ago my four children and I lost our home. At the time we fought hard to stay in own home. The impact on my children individually was great.

 

The marriage and fatherhood had slowly disintegrated over a 19 year period.  The disharmony and violence escalated.  I had detached myself from the effects. To the point I felt I was dancing the tango all by myself. There was no peace in the family. My eldest daughter had taken on responsibilities as a carer for the family. 

 

My ex husband and I had contributed financially to buying our own home. I was a full time professional, and as time went on became the sole earner in the family. The children’s ages were from 6-14 years old.

 

The decision to leave the family home came when he physically assaulted my eldest daughter. I put the children in the car and we went to the police. It was around 9. That night the refuge was full. The police had suggested I stay with friends, but I didn’t want to involve them or put them at risk.

 

A motel room was a better option, so we stayed there until I could take the family and myself into the refuge, which was next day. There was no suggestion that we could return home.  The police had put in place an interim order for the children, and I had an interim order for myself. 

 

On the next available court day the orders were finalized to AVO’s for 12 months. At that court hearing I asked for the children and I to return home. The magistrate refused my request, saying it was “My choice to leave”. 

 

It took courage to leave the family home. There was no peace and the home had become an unsafe place. I was not returning as I was not going to subject the children to any further violence or psychological ridicule. I felt if I had I was guilty of not protecting my children. The consequence of this action was that it was necessary to stop working for 12 months so I could support my children with my physical and emotional presence and help. Without my usual income our financial situation dropped. We were now in rental accommodation. I was now faced with rebuilding a home from scratch. We did not have any of our belongings.

 

I would like to give you a few examples of the impact this had on my children.

 

  • My eldest daughter, aged 14, had to take on many of the responsibilities of a parent. She was angry with her father. She was angry at the so-called system which had let her down.

  • My second daughter, aged 10,  was the most visibly affected. When I went back to the refuge from Court, she asked if we were going back home. When I said no, she sobbed. She wanted to go home and sleep in her own bed.

  • Even today my third daughter feels threatened if there is a hint of a suggestion that her present home might be taken away from her. She continues to be reassured that this will not happen to her.

  • My son, who was 6 at the time,  was devastated. He didn’t want to leave my side. He was insecure, he clung to me. He had ongoing problems at school for years.

  • If there is any tension with my current partner, the first thing the children say is “Are we going to lose this home”.

  • After 9 years of separation we are now settled and accepting of the situation. My 20 year old daughter surprised me when we recently  visited her father’s home,  and on seeing her childhood bed with the same doona cover on it said “ This is my bed, and I want my bed”.

 

I believe that if my husband had been given an exclusion order from the home, and we had been allowed to return home , the trauma of the separation for the children would not have been so great. That the transition to a life of harmony and every day living would have been easier for everyone concerned, especially the children.

 

I feel very positive about this Pilot project and give everyone concerned my support.

 

February 2005.


 

a police memorandum of understanding (mou)

 

This is an essential agreement between the Local Police Command and the SHLV service or any other domestic violence service which is supporting women to, stay home. It’s an agreement by all those signing that they will carry out certain tasks and will act cooperatively together.

  • It spells out what is the role of each signing agency.

  • And the joint roles and responsibilities: such as communication between the agencies, sharing data, case management, review, monitoring, dispute resolution and confidentiality.

  • That when Police attend a domestic violence incident they will provide information to all parties about the possibility of exclusion and support available to stay in the home.

  • The MOU spells out that police are encouraged to actively seek exclusion orders to prohibit the violent partner.

  • In all cases where the police attend a domestic violence incident they will seek consent to refer the victim to external agencies.

  • After the incident, the officer in charge or the DVLO will make contact with the victim and inform them of  any charges and what has occurred to the offender.

  • When a Vitalcall alarm has been installed, the original COPS entry will be updated to include a warning on the location that the victim and location are part of the SHLV project.