21 April 2020

The ABC of support for people impacted by domestic and family violence

| Rebecca Vassarotti MLA
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Partners at the launch of the ABC micro-finance facility including Lynne Pezzullo, Melissa Cabban, Marcia Williams, Mirjana Wilson, Georgina Byron and Trisha Wong

People often ask why people stay in violent domestic situations but then struggle to respond to the needs of people who leave. The decision to leave a violent relationship is extraordinarily difficult, and the impact of being subject to a violent relationship can be profound and long lasting, long after an individual has made the brave decision to leave. While we often focus on the physical and psychological impacts of domestic violence abuse, we rarely think about the ongoing financial impacts of domestic and family violence.

At the launch of an innovative new initiative aimed to respond to the issue of access to financial resources following domestic violence, Anne, a survivor of domestic violence, shared her story of the immense financial hardship she suffered after fleeing an unsafe situation, even though she was earning a decent wage and deemed able to manage without significant support. The reality for her was that the costs required to maintain safe accommodation for herself and her children meant that there was little money left for other essentials in life. She had little money to access a rental bond, no funds to deal with medical emergencies and because she was in the workforce, she wasn’t able to access government assistance. It took her seven years to break free of financial precariousness, and achieve a level of financial stability.

Unfortunately, Anne’s story is not unique. In 2014, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) commenced research to validate their experience of working with families impacted by domestic and family violence which included the reality that many of these families were finding themselves in dire financial hardship after leaving a domestic violence situation and unable to access government and other support due to their income level – identified as the ‘missing middle’.

Up until now, people in this situation have only had the options of surviving through the kindness of friends and families, the support of charities and calling on emergency relief services.

It’s a testament to the strength of our local community that DVCS was able to connect and work with a group of community organisations, financial institutions, foundations and businesses to harness and leverage their different skills and expertise to create a much more innovative and proactive way to deal with this issue.

The culmination of this partnership has seen the launch of a new initiative – the Assistance Beyond Crisis (ABC) micro-finance facility. This program will enable local people who have escaped from domestic violence situations and are unable to access appropriate assistance because their assets and/or income levels deem them ineligible for government crisis services, even though they may be unable to access these assets or income, have immediate needs and an inability to pay at a particular point of time. This facility will provide one-off, no interest loans, primarily for providing some financial stability and providing for a short term one-off need. This facility may also consider a small number of one-off grants.

The group of organisations who have signed up to be part of this initiative is impressive. It is a program that has been led by DVCS and the Women’s Centre for Health Matters, and includes support from Deloitte, the Snow Foundation, CARE Financial Counselling and Service One. Financial support has been provided by Service one, Beyond Bank, Deborah and Richard Rolfe, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PwC, KPMG, Independent Property Foundation, Hands Across Canberra, Dr Tony Tonks, Aspen Medical, Communities@Work, and The Snow Foundation.

This innovative response makes me proud to be a Canberran. It gives me comfort that there are supports in place for people who have suffered the trauma of domestic violence. It gives me hope that there is another program that makes the decision to leave a violent relationship a little bit easier. What do you think?

Caption: Partners at the launch of the ABC micro-finance facility including Lynne Pezzullo, Melissa Cabban, Marcia Williams, Mirjana Wilson, Georgina Byron and Trisha Wong.

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Serina Bird Huang (aka Ms Frugal Ears)4:04 pm 26 Jun 17

The general view of domestic violence is of a poor woman fleeing a house. Often in fact she (or he) gets a court order allowing the victim to stay in the home. This is really helpful with providing stability for children, but makes it especially hard when there suddenly becomes an obligation to meet mortgage, utilities and rates payments plus legal costs plus childcare plus everything else. And then there is the vexed issue of domestic violence leave, which is often not available. This is a great initiative and I hope it will provide domestic violence survivors, male or female, with the assistance they need.

I trust that many men will avail themselves of this initiative in the realisation that to persevere inside a violent relationship is not to survive it.
In leaving a violent partner, a man often needs to continue mortgage or rental payments to support his wife and children and must find additional income for new accommodation.
When she is violent, get out and have her charged: there is nothing to salvage that is worthwhile to seek.

This looks like a great service that will aid people to make the (right) decision to leave a violent relationship. No one should be subject to family violence and this kind of service is needed.

CanberraStreets9:00 am 22 Jun 17

This is a thrilling and heartwarming development.

It is too easy to imagine that people experiencing family violence can just walk away, but it is seldom if ever that simple.

Accessing support services is difficult and can often be confronting. The loss of family, home and social context is heartbreaking. Trying to manage to care for self and children or pets or any other dependents, and exit a violent relationship and have to sort out how to build a new life is a big ask. Doing so when the very nature of family violence makes you question your own self-worth is a crushing load.

Anything that helps people get past all that and onto a life where violence is not a feature can only be applauded.

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