Domestic violence-related assaults in the Hunter have doubled since 1998, and police in the region have been called to 12,700 domestic incidents in the past year alone. Today, high-profile Novocastrians join the Newcastle Herald in calling on the men of the Hunter to take a stand and say no to violence against women.
ON the eve of this year’s White Ribbon Day on Sunday , the Hunter’s men are being urged to let their mates know they say ‘no’ to violence against women.
Among those who have taken an oath in support of the campaign are Newcastle Knights rugby league coach Wayne Bennett, Knights player Jarrod Mullen, Jets player Ruben Zadkovich and police superintendent Craig Rae. Ambassadors include Clubs NSW Newcastle representative Jon Chin, former union leader Kevin Maher and Newcastle Herald editor Chad Watson.
Their oath is to never commit violence against women, never excuse it and never remain silent about. Hundreds of men will attend today’s White Ribbon Day Hunter breakfast at Newcastle Panthers.
VIOLENCE IS ESCALATING
By Gabriel Wingate-Pearse
HUNTER police have responded to more than 12,700 reports of domestic violence in the past 12 months and the demand for support services is ‘‘skyrocketing’’.
Nearly half those incidents involved a criminal offence.
Since 1998 the number of domestic violence-related assaults has almost doubled, up to 2532 in the 12 months to June 2012, from 1321 in 1998.
But police say the statistics reveal only a fragment of the issue with the majority of women reluctant to report or seek assistance.
Central Hunter Crime Manager, Detective Inspector John Zdrilic, said it is an ongoing challenge to encourage women to come forward.
‘‘I am of the view that it is under-reported here,’’ he said.
‘‘What I am saying is reach out, don’t feel that there
is nothing you can do about it.’’
Newcastle Domestic Violence Resource Centre counsellor and outreach support worker, Robyn James, said domestic violence
was more prevalent, and more severe than people realised.
‘‘Most haven’t contacted the police for a number of reasons, often because they don’t want to escalate the situation,’’ she said.
‘‘They don’t understand that an apprehended violence order is not giving the other person a criminal record, and they certainly should take it, that’s what we would recommend that they do.’’
Pam Morris, a committee member and worker at Newcastle women’s refuge Jenny’s Place, said hundreds of women desperately seeking help were being turned away as accommodation was a massive issue.
‘‘We have got statistics to prove that the turn away figures each year are sky-rocketing and the number of clients that Robyn is supporting through the resource centre is sky rocketing,’’ she said.
‘‘Our turn away figures for 2010-2011 financial year were 324 women, and 391 children. In the 2011-2012 financial year we turned away 570 women, and 620 children.’’
Maitland-based domestic violence liaison officer Constable Jenny Brown agreed that accommodation was a major issue for victims of domestic violence, as well as financial barriers.
‘‘Can you walk out the door on your own life? It’s complicated but in some cases that is what has to be done,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s easy for other people to judge but it’s very difficult.’’
But there were also times when the offending behaviour could be identified, and addressed, she said.
‘‘Police are not about breaking people up, it’s about the violence stopping.’’
THE SAD FACTS
■The number of domestic violence-related assaults in the Hunter has almost doubled since 1998 – up to 2532 in 2012, from 1321 in 1998
■Cessnock had the highest rate of domestic violence-related assaults per 100,000 people in 2011 of 552.2, compared to the NSW average of 372.4
■Newcastle (403), Maitland (421.9), and Muswellbrook (450.5) also recorded above-average rates of domestic violence assaults
■Newcastle women’s refuge Jenny’s Place was forced to turn away 570 women and 620 children during the past financial year
■The demands on the Newcastle Domestic Violence Resource Centre has risen from an average of 32 referrals per month in 2011 to 60 last month (October 2012)
Source: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Jenny’s Place and the Newcastle Domestic Violence Resource Centre
CASE STUDY: Hoping for a better future
By Shanna Beeton
AFTER months of not seeing her long-term partner, Kate* knew that his sudden reappearance in her life meant trouble.
When the couple met 14 years ago Kate was instantly attracted to Dean*.
He was funny and exciting, but soon after Kate fell pregnant with their first child she realised he was not the man she had fallen in love with.
The mother of six, who is now living in a women’s refugee, suffered years of abuse from the father of her children.
‘‘I spent years putting up with the kids’ dad, and it wasn’t until the police got involved that we could get away,’’ she said.
Kate, who didn’t want to deprive the children of their father, said she became trapped in a cycle.
‘‘He’d make excuses to stay the night and the kids would be so excited to see him, they’d want him to stay for dinner, then I’d get sucked back in and the cycle would start again.’’
The abuse escalated over the years, from emotional and verbal batterings to physical violence.
‘‘There was always verbal and emotional abuse, then there was physical violence,’’ she said. ‘‘He’d always use the kids against me because he knew I would do anything for them.’’
It wasn’t until Dean failed to return the children from a weekend visit that Kate realised the severity of the situation: ‘‘He took five of the kids and had them for seven months, leaving me with my oldest daughter.
‘‘Then he just dropped them back one day when he realised it was too hard to look after them.’’
Once reunited with her kids, Kate planned to move out of what had become the family home.
‘‘I’d packed all my thing into boxes getting ready to move, and he broke in and ransacked the house I was renting,’’ she said. ‘‘We lost everything.
‘‘We came to the women’s refugee with the clothes we were wearing.’’
The damage to the property was so severe that Kate was blacklisted from the rental market.
‘‘I thought he had the upper hand for a while, he just wore me away,’’ she said. ‘‘In hindsight I should have protected myself better but the thought of putting him in jail made me feel guilty because he is the kids’ dad.
‘‘I realise now what he was doing, but at the time you don’t realise. All we can do is hope for a better future, and slowly we’ll get there.’’
*Not their real names.