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HomeLatest NewsLocal charities brace for influx of coercive control victims

Local charities brace for influx of coercive control victims

Not-for-profit organisations, that are a part of the Northern Beaches Domestic Violence Network, are preparing for an influx of cases once Australia’s new coercive control laws come into effect on July 1st.

Manly-based LocalKind is one of these organisations which offers drop-in support services for vulnerable individuals within the community.

The charity’s CEO, Craig Stevens, is no stranger to dealing with coercive control, but with barely enough funding to support themselves, the charity is looking to the community for help.

“The majority of people that have come to LocalKind for support are those experiencing coercive control,” Craig explained.

“We’ve heard of partners hiding and checking their phones, stalking, withholding funds. We’ve had a mother accessing food support because their partner is withholding money from them.

“We receive some government funding, which helps, but doesn’t even cover our current cost. We are, therefore, reaching out to the local community and asking them to donate whatever they can to help us.”

The LocalKind team outside their HQ in Manly.

Narelle Hand, CEO of Northern Beaches Womens Shelter and Chair of the Northern Beaches Domestic Violence Network, says more awareness encourages people to seek help.

Its [coercive control] news at the moment, but its not new to us, Narelle said.

I hope we dont have an influx of people because were trying to do everything we can to reduce that from happening, but I think what Craig has identified is what we are going to see.

Weve seen an increase of people wanting to access our service, and especially where theres been more media attention, we have had a lot more connections with people and people that have never had contact with services.

Although community support towards ending domestic violence is encouraged, a key strategy towards battling the issue is the collaboration between the services in the network.

Northern Beaches Women’s Shelter supporters including Board Chair Rosy Sullivan (centre) and Manager Narelle Hand (second from the right). Photo: Kim Smee

Im super proud of how all organisations on the Northern Beaches work together in some areas, you know, where people are competing for funding. In my experience of working here, we dont work like that. We work together. We work collectively, collaboratively,” Narelle added.

There have been many support cases where people have gone through LocalKind then theyre identified as having a higher level of need of perhaps, safe, secure accommodation, and then we will, as a key partner, do everything within our power to make sure that person is housed as quickly and as safely as possible.

Coercive control involves using abusive behaviours over time, which embeds fear into its victims and restricts their liberties.

This can involve patterns of financial abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, stalking, harassment and intimidation.

Before July 1st, coercive control was not considered a criminal charge, which made many cases difficult to be admissible in an Australian court of law.

NSW Police told Manly Observer in a statement they are already training officers to spot and enforce the new laws appropriately.

“The NSW Police Force recognises that coercive control is a significant form of domestic violence. The identification of behaviour involving coercive control is a critical part of our police response to protect victims of domestic violence. Currently, training is being undertaken specific to coercive control for all members of the NSW Police Force.”

Op for Change presentation evening hosted by Miranda Fair raised $15,000 for the Northern Beaches Women’s Shelter.

LocalKind says a majority of people who approach their organisation for support are those experiencing coercive control.

Craig, a victim himself, believes their process of helping victims won’t change much, but the new laws could open new avenues for the organisation.

“I think, to my own experience, having been in a domestic abuse situation that included coercive control, I’m reluctant to give advice because I also understand everyone’s journey is different. I encourage people to take the first step forward, if they can and if they want to, and sometimes that is coming to LocalKind,” he said.

“Our practical steps won’t change, but it’ll help us understand what other options there are, not just police, but other financial support options because the law supports it.”

Narelle says much the same for NBWS but believes the new laws will ultimately create a safer community for women.

We probably wont change the way we work with people, but we will be able to support them to engage in the legal processes that will give them better outcomes and acknowledge their situation and then hold perpetrators to account, Narelle said.

Thats going to keep people safer, because theres nothing worse than supporting someone whos experiencing coercive control, and they dont have enough evidence to do anything further.

LocalKind has said there are around 250 cases of domestic violence and coercive control reported each year on the Northern Beaches.

Sarah, whose name we have changed,  is one of the victims who decided to come to LocalKind for support.

“I’ve been suffering from psychological and financial abuse from my husband. At first, I didn’t want any other support, so I just received vouchers and produce from Localkind,” Sarah said.

“But after becoming more fearful for my safety, I opened up and allowed them to introduce me to Lifeline services.

“I’ve now been able to obtain an escaping violence payment in preparation for when me and my children need to leave the family home.”

LocalKind’s pantry full of groceries for the vulnerable.

Another victim is Alex. He has been coming to LocalKind for over ten years and is in the midst of post-separation violence.

“I’ve been living in an uninhabitable garage and have had deliberate malicious attempts by my ex-partner to jeopardise my permanent residency and deny access to our child,” Alex said.

“The organisation has provided me with vouchers and food from its pantry while the team works with local political figures to try and address my visa and parental status issues.”

Some details of victims’ statements have been altered for privacy.

LocalKind and NBWS are a part of the Northern Beaches Domestic Network which is a group of organisations which provide services and advocacy for people experiencing or at risk of domestic and family violence/abuse on the Northern Beaches.

There are 34 organisations which make up the network including Women and Children’s First, Women’s Resilience Centre, Lifeline, and the Domestic Violence Advocacy Service.

Besides helping victims of domestic abuse and coercive control, education has been a key initiative to inform the public of the damage and impact of domestic and family violence/abuse.

“When I was going through the experience, people would ask, well, why don’t you just leave? And for many going through it, it’s not as simple as that when there’s love, children, property, finances, things that are complicated, involved.”

“We are utilising our social media to share a lot of the Department of Communities Justice Community Awareness Campaign’s content, to share thoughts around that this is not just for the purpose of raising money, but community awareness, because we would love more people to understand that what’s happening to them is not okay.”

LocalKind not only helps people going through domestic abuse but also any vulnerable members of the community.

The Northern Beaches Womens Shelter has been providing accommodation and support for at risk women and children for over 20 years.

The new incoming laws could mean a large influx of victims which these not-for-profit organisations may financially struggle to help.

More info, or to donate to them here

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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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