Nearly 4000 households in Warilla and Lake Illawarra will receive a community survey this week, as part of a project to drive down the suburbs’ high rates of domestic violence.
Illawarra Women’s Health Centre general manager Sally Stevenson said NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures revealed the two suburbs as “hot spots” for domestic violence, recording rates well above the state average.
She said the survey, being run in partnership with the University of Wollongong, aimed to gauge these communities’ attitudes towards domestic violence to understand why rates were high.
“Research has identified that one of the key contributors to the perpetuation of domestic and family violence is violence-supporting attitudes: justifying, excusing, trivialising, minimising and blaming,” Ms Stevenson said.
“Only by understanding and then changing attitudes to domestic and family violence can we really make an impact in breaking the cycle of violence for this generation and the next.”
On average, one woman a week in Australia is killed by an intimate partner; while one in four women has experienced at least one incident of violence by a partner.
Last year, NSW Police recorded almost 30,000 domestic-violence related assaults, while as many apprehended violence orders (AVOs) were issued to perpetrators.
UOW lead researcher Dr Natalia Hanley, from the School of Health and Society, said while national surveys had been undertaken on attitudes to domestic violence – local information was vital.
“There’s significant local differences or we wouldn’t see different rates of domestic and family violence,” Dr Hanley said.
“So national surveys can’t tell us what’s specifically going on in those communities where rates are high, and they can’t tell us what the local strengths of those communities are either.
“Because ultimately we want to work in partnership with these communities and use their strengths to address these issues, and then to develop specific prevention plans.”
Shellharbour council, Lake Illawarra police and Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District are supporting the project, and Ms Stevenson urged community members to fill the survey in.
Surveys can be returned in the reply-paid envelope provided, completed online or over the phone.
Respondents are not asked for personal details, but about their beliefs about domestic violence and associated health issues, and their confidence in the criminal justice system.
If you need support, contact the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre on 4255 6800 or the NSW Domestic Violence Line on 1800 656 463.