At the beginning of October, three women in NSW were killed by a partner or a former partner in a single week. It was a heart-rending, stomach-churning, blood-boiling reminder of the pitiless scourge that is domestic violence.
For many compassionate Australians it was impossible not to be shocked. Not to be stunned that three innocent lives could be cut short, in such horrific fashion, in such a short space of time.
But for women like Annabelle Daniel and Dr Christina Curry, who are personally and professionally invested in creating safe places for women and children escaping violent partners, these deaths are most shocking in their predictability.
“It breaks my heart every single time it happens,” Women’s Community Shelter chief executive Annabelle Daniel says. “For me, there is always the ‘What if’. What if there was a bed for her? Did she know there was support? What could we have done? It makes me want to double down in my efforts to ensure there are safe places for women and kids.”
Daniel has opened four shelters for women escaping DV in three years, and all have been full within a week of opening.
“For every bed we have available we have five requests for it,” Daniel says. “That holds true across our network of shelters.”
Women’s Community Shelters works with the local community to provide short term emergency accommodation and support. Daniel says it’s impossible to keep up with demand and the stakes are potentially fatal.
“It is absolutely desperate. As we raise awareness of domestic violence we raise knowledge with women in abusive relationships that there are options and place to go,” Daniel explains. “When they are ready to make the decision to leave, they need somewhere to go and you may only have one shot at supporting them.”
Providing a bed is just the beginning.
“Women need not only a safe place to go, but they need support. A few nights in a motel doesn’t cut it,” Daniel says.
WCS is planning on opening another four to five shelters by the end of 2018, and one of these, Bayside, is set to open in south-east Sydney soon.
“The reported statistics show that in the south-east of Sydney the rates of domestic violence are very high and we currently don’t have a shelter in the area,” Dr Christina Curry, the chair of the Bayside Shelter, says. “We know from talking to local police and the DV counselling providers that there is a high demand for a safe place for women and children.”
Being able to provide accommodation in the local area is critical.
“If we can provide a shelter within their existing community, where they have some support and their kids are at school, it keeps some things as normal as they can be,” Dr Curry says. “There will be 120 women and kids beneficially impacted by the provision of a safe place to go.”
Bayside will open its doors as soon as it has a suitable property. The WCS model relies on support from the community in which it operates.
“To use the words of Rosie Batty, this is intimate terrorism and unless and until we see it that way we aren’t taking it as seriously as we could,” Daniel says.
Award-winning singer Amber Lawrence headlines the Safe Haven Project and Bayside Women’s Shelter Dinner on November 22nd. There is no shelter in the South-Eastern Suburbs, funds raised will go towards establishing the shelter. Book tickets here.