South West organisations urge people to reach out in times of crisis

You are not alone: South West Women's Refuge chief executive Anita Shortland said help and support was always available. Picture: Emily Sharp.
You are not alone: South West Women's Refuge chief executive Anita Shortland said help and support was always available. Picture: Emily Sharp.

South West community organisations have urged people to reach out and seek help throughout the Christmas and New Year season when a crisis occurs.

Recent WA police figures showed a sharp rise in reported family violence incidents during the 2016-17 Christmas holiday period.

However, South West Women’s Refuge chief executive Anita Shortland said help was always available. 

“Unfortunately there is demand on our services all year round, and the peaks aren’t always predictable, but help is available,” she said.

“Even though women might think this is a busy time for services and maybe they feel like they don’t want to impose, if they feel they need support, help or advice, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it – that is what the services are here for.”

The South West Women’s Refuge provides 24/7 crisis accommodation, support, advocacy and referrals for women and children escaping family or domestic violence every day of the year. 

“In many situations we can also work with women to keep them safe in their own homes across the South West, through our Safe at Home program,” Ms Shortland said. 

“We encourage women who are being abused in any way to seek help as soon as they can.”

Waratah chief executive Trudi Ruane agreed with Ms Shortland and said the South West Sexual Assault Resource Centre ran 24/7, 365 days of the year in crisis response. 

“Waratah has been exceptionally busy all year receiving between 61 -95 referrals per month and rising as we approach the end of the year,” she said. 

“Christmas is exceptionally traumatic for many of our past and new clients and the community at large with one in four people expecting to be spending the 25th December alone,” she said.

“Violence and abuse often causes family members to become fragmented and estranged this increases the angst and need for service provision.

“If you feel alone and need to speak with someone there are highly qualified staff members manning help lines – you can remain private and confidential and or share your personal information with these services.  

Ms Ruane also encouraged the community to listen out and offer kindness to neighbours and those that they meet not just at Christmas but all year-round.

“With confidence I would refer all clients to 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – a specialist, sexual assault, family domestic violence counselling and response service,” Ms Ruane said. 

WA police family violence statistics were recently released as part of the WA to Stop Violence Against Women campaign.

Last financial year, there were 65,134 family violence related tasks logged for police attendance. Each day, there was an average of 178 family violence related tasks.

This increased by 26.8 per cent to 226 during the Christmas-New Year period. 

Almost 24,000 incidents were recorded in which children were exposed to family violence. Each day, there was an average of 66 family violence incidents in which children were present, which increased by 22.7 per cent to 81 during the holiday period.

Following the release of the statistics Police Minister Michelle Roberts said Christmas should be a time of love, not fear. 

“It’s a sad fact that police respond to a significant increase in the number of family and domestic violence incidents at this time of year,” she said.

“I urge people to be sensible with their alcohol intake and be mindful of those things that make Christmas - peace, goodwill and giving joy to those we love.”

Those needing help are encouraged to contact Police in an emergency (000), the Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline (1800 007 339) for support, including access to the closest refuge or the Men’s Domestic Violence Helpline (1800 000 599).