A new program will train religious leaders to spot the warning signs of domestic violence and what steps to take to help victims escape abusive partners.
A new program will train religious leaders to spot the warning signs of domestic violence and what steps to take to help victims escape abusive partners.

Religious leaders to help victims of domestic violence

Religious leaders will be trained to help domestic violence victims escape abusive partners because many don't trust anyone else enough to ask for help.

The new state government program will teach leaders to spot the warning signs and the steps they must take to keep women and children safe, including reporting to the police.

NSW Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman said the ­"robust" training should make a "significant difference" to multicultural victims who often only confide in their local leader.

"People from those backgrounds have personal barriers to reporting because they are isolated from family in their home country who would otherwise be offering them social support or would act to mitigate the family violence," Mr Speakman said.

"They may have feelings of shame or dishonour, fear of deportation, losing custody of children, not being believed, or they may have more difficult financial circumstances. It may be cultural barriers to reporting, religious beliefs about the permanence of marriage, the privacy of family matters or the shame of divorce."

A seminar on domestic violence involving members of the Sikh community took place last month.
A seminar on domestic violence involving members of the Sikh community took place last month.

The specialised training, which will also be for community leaders, covers a range of topics from child protection issues to using checklists to identify the threat to victims.

Mr Speakman said they will also learn to engage in "accidental counselling" when someone mentions the topic of domestic violence and teach them to look after their own mental wellbeing.

"Often they are first responders in their community in a counselling sense - ­people come to them with problems as community ­leaders and they want to be skilled to handle those ­rather than be ill-equipped," he said.

"Educated with the right skills, information and ability to recognise abuse in different forms means this training will help reach many survivors for the first time, and ultimately help ensure that people get the crucial help they need before it's too late."

Religious leaders will learn to engage in “accidental counselling” when someone mentions the topic of domestic violence and teach them to look after their own mental wellbeing.
Religious leaders will learn to engage in “accidental counselling” when someone mentions the topic of domestic violence and teach them to look after their own mental wellbeing.

Initially about 120 leaders across NSW will undertake the training, involving face-to-face and online components, but Mr Speakman said "this is just a start".

"We will evaluate how this goes with a view to further programs in the future," he said.

In addition to the new ­training, NSW also delivers domestic violence information seminars for religious groups, with Council of Imams NSW president Ahmed Abdo saying they were an important step "in identifying how we can ­further strengthen families".

"However, it is only the tip of the iceberg and it was clear that further specialist training would enhance the work already been done in this vital space," he said.

MANY MORE WOMEN REALISING THEY COULD BE HANNAH CLARKE TOO

The murder of Brisbane mum Hannah Clarke and her three children has triggered "fear" among women, with a surge in calls to the NSW domestic violence hotline.

Nearly a month after Ms Clarke was killed by her estranged husband, calls have increased by nearly 16 per cent and DV line counsellor Josephine Dewar said her death had caused women to question their partner's behaviour.

"Most probably a lot of women who are in situations of abuse, in the sense of verbal abuse, might have started to think: 'Oh, he might be able to end up murdering me - that's similar to what happened to the woman that has just been murdered'," Ms Dewar said.

"It triggers fear about the way they're being treated in the relationship and maybe they weren't aware prior to Hannah's murder that that was a part of domestic violence.

"A lot of women who ring up will say: 'Look, he's not hitting me so I don't know if that's abuse - he's putting me down, he's telling me what to wear, he's isolating me from my friends, he won't allow me to have a key card, all of those sorts of things."

Nearly a month after Ms Clarke and her three children were killed by her estranged husband, calls to the domestic violence hotline have increased by nearly 16 per cent.
Nearly a month after Ms Clarke and her three children were killed by her estranged husband, calls to the domestic violence hotline have increased by nearly 16 per cent.

Ms Dewar said she was concerned people would move on from Ms Clarke's death and the crisis would be "hidden away again".

She added it was time for a "total rethink" on domestic violence.

"It's basically a men's issue about the way they relate to women and yet women are always having to pick up the pieces or are blamed for the man's behaviour," she said.

"That's why I think there was an outcry with Hannah's murder and it's the first time I think I've seen it where there was a huge outcry about: 'No, it's not he's a good guy, or no he's not been sent to the end and that's why he did it'.

"It was he's a violent person that needs to take responsibility and she's not to blame for her murder."

Last year the service received nearly 18,500 calls.

 

 

SURVIVORS USE THEIR WISDOM

They survived abusive partners - one at the age of 14 - and Alison Nuske and Talie Star will now use their own traumatic experiences to help other victims.

Both women will attend the state government's first summit for survivors of domestic violence this week to outline what must change to stop women dying and tackle rising rates of abuse across NSW.

Ms Star, a singer and songwriter who grew up in a violent home before suffering violence in her own marriage, said the system needed ­urgent funding.

"It's great to have a ­conversation but we need action," Ms Star said.

"We don't need any more inquiries - we know what needs to be fixed and we know what works."

Domestic Violence survivors Alison Nuske (left) and Talie Star pictured in Surry Hills. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Domestic Violence survivors Alison Nuske (left) and Talie Star pictured in Surry Hills. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Ms Nuske, who was sexually abused by two previous partners - the first when she was just 14 - said the coronavirus pandemic has proven governments can act quickly.

"Look at the immediate response to the coronavirus - which is a crisis in itself as well - and what our government can do," the 26-year-old said.

"I look at the crisis that is domestic and family violence and look at what our government is not doing or the very little that is being done and I think 'why aren't we treating this crisis just as importantly?', particularly given the longevity of it as well."

 

NSW Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman said the survivors summit, hosted by peak group Domestic Violence NSW would help the government improve programs.

"This will be the first time we've had a summit and I think it's important to hear from the victim-survivors' perspective … rather than a minister in his ivory tower pontificating about what's good for people," Mr Speakman said.

Ms Star and Ms Nuske are planning to use the summit to highlight the shortage of safe housing for victims and the need for early prevention programs aimed at young boys.



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