More say no to violence in homes

By Kristin Edge

Increasing numbers of pregnant women and ones aged over 60 are turning to women's refuge services in Whangarei, a report shows.

The rise is due to more public awareness that domestic violence is not acceptable and people being prepared to speak out, say those helping women and their families in crisis.

At Tryphina House Women's Refuge in Whangarei, women over the age of 60 made up 10 per cent of all clients last financial year - an increase of 7 per cent.

Team leader Jodie Findlay-Harris said national campaigns highlighting domestic violence had encouraged more people to come forward. And the turnout at a march through central Whangarei following the death of mother of two Patricia Ann McGrath last month showed people were prepared to speak out.

About 500 people joined the march, carrying posters of women killed in domestic violence incidents. "It's become more acceptable for families to seek help. There's not as much shame because more people are talking out about it," Ms Findlay-Harris said.

The number of neighbours who were now prepared to alert police to domestic violence incidents was noticeable.

"Previously a lot of people didn't want to get involved. Neighbours are picking up the phone and it's a sign communities aren't accepting it as acceptable behaviour."

Referrals from doctors and lawyers and other social services when domestic violence was suspected were also increasing.

"It's always good if someone reaches out for help because the consequences of not doing so can be devastating," Ms Findlay-Harris said.

Domestic violence was nothing new, she said, and it was non-selective, with all walks of life and every profession affected.

Age Concern Whangarei president Beryl Wilkinson said the older generation had previously endured more and possibly suffered quietly, wanting to keep families together.

Another factor prompting women of an older generation to come forward was the availability of services that could help these days. "It was a different culture previously. Today women are encouraged to speak out."

January had seen a spike in the number of women and children at both Tryphina house and Te Puna o Te Aroha.

Te Puna O Te Aroha case worker Nadene Devonshire said at this time of the year finances were short following Christmas and with children going back to school and needing uniforms and stationery.

"Generally the women hold it all together over Christmas and play happy whanau, but in January when the bills start coming in it's a stressful time."

Both the refuges rely on donations from the community to help women and children in crisis situations.

"Some women and their children leave with just the clothes they are in. We provide them with food and clothing and practical things in those situations," Ms Findlay-Harris said.

For help contact Tryphina Women's Refuge or Te Puna o Te Aroha on 0800 733 843.

- Northern Advocate

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