During recent months, our community has managed itself through bushfires, heavy smoke, hailstorms and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout this time, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) has continued to provide support to people in our community impacted by domestic and family violence.
To find out how things are going on the frontline of domestic and family violence in the ACT, Region Media pays the team a visit.
“Our workload remained pretty consistent during the peak of COVID-19, from March to mid-June,” says DVCS’s director of client services, Dearne Weaver. “There were a few significant peaks and troughs, but mostly it remained consistent.
“In late June, we experienced a 32 per cent increase in client demand. We provided accommodation to more than 30 people during that month. Now that people are returning to their work places, visiting friends and family and getting out more, we anticipate more people may be reaching out.”
After speaking with Dearne, we sat on the ‘crisis floor’ and watched and listened as the DVCS team provided support to the ACT community. What we learnt was unbelievable, but it’s all part of an average day for this valuable crew.
Eve, who is team leader of legal advocacy at DVCS, was supporting someone at court. This process was previously done face-to-face in the ACT Magistrates Court, but at the moment it is being done over the phone. We hear her say down the line, “It’s OK to cry… Now, I want you to take a few deep breaths. Breath in… and now out.”
This is a quick reality check for us about what is happening to people who are impacted by violence within their relationships.
Paige is in charge of DVCS’s ‘dynamic prioritisation system’. She manages work flow and quality control, ensuring high-risk clients are prioritised. Despite working at DVCS for more than three years, she is still considered relatively new in this busy role.
Sitting in the same office pod as Paige are Julie and Inez. Julie’s main role is to support families in emergency accommodation. She is completing a referral to Roundabout Canberra so their client – a young mother with a baby – can receive baby clothes and other essential items. Inez is shadowing other team members during her third week of training.
Team member Clare is DVCS’s senior criminal justice advocate. She is in the process of emailing the Director of Public Prosecutions about a family violence matter before the courts. Across from her sits Tess, who is reading over the outcome of a criminal family violence matter before she calls her client to update them.
At the next pod sits Gayle, who is on the incoming crisis team. She is responsible for answering incoming calls today, and is on an incoming call as we approach so we don’t interrupt.
Across from Gayle sits Kayla, who is typing her notes after finishing a phone call with ACT Policing’s victim liaison officer about getting a WESNET Safe Phone to a client who needs one.
In a nearby pod sit Amanda, Susan and Janne. Amanda is typing up notes having recently completed a follow-up call to a client. This is where DVCS is different to other crisis support services; it isn’t just an incoming service, but provides outreach, meets with clients in person and checks in with them to ensure their ongoing physical and psychological safety.
Janne is speaking softly with a client on the phone. Further around the pod we hear Susan also speaking with someone on the phone and hear her reference “threats to kill”. It’s a reminder how real and dangerous the situation can be for their clients.
Team member Mon has concerns about a client who has possibly been trafficked into Australia and is working with Child and Youth Protection Service (CYPS) to provide ongoing safety to her and her children. We are told human trafficking continues to occur in Australia.
Beyond the crisis intervention team, Margy is reviewing a file and hopes to provide a security upgrade for a client at high risk of harm.
Kylie has just finished preparing for a support visit with a client who is only seven years old. Kylie works closely with children who have previously lived with domestic or family violence within their homes and are experiencing disconnection to their mothers and families, their community or school. Kylie works with both children and families, and for this support visit she has a range of craft activities, music activities and puzzles packed in her little green basket.
In addition to these team members, there is DVCS’s business and administration team, other team leaders and the Room4Change team which works with men who want support to provide ongoing support to their partner, ex-partner or children.
No day is the same for DVCS staff as each client brings their own complexities, needs and goals. The team is passionate about what they do and dedicated to supporting clients to live in a world free from violence.
If you are experiencing domestic, family or intimate partner violence, or you are concerned about some of your own behaviour with your family, you are encouraged to contact the Domestic Violence Crisis Service. If you are worried about a friend, you can also contact DVCS.
Telephone: 62 800 900 (24 hours, seven days a week)
SMS: 0421 268 492
Online chat: dvcs.org.au
Confidential Contact Form: dvcs.org.au/contact/confidential-contact
Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram): @DVCSACT