THERE is a problem in our community and we're not talking about it enough.
The problem is domestic violence.
In Australia, one woman is killed every week by a former or current partner. One in three Australian women will experience a physical assault in their life time and one in five will be sexually assaulted.
Three in five of all female deaths in Australia occur between intimate partners.
These are alarming statistics and what's even more alarming is that they're increasing and no one is sure why.
The first women's refuge in Australia was established in Sydney in 1974.
The first refuge in Taree was called Lyn's Place and was established in a small fibro cottage in Taree in the early 1980s.
A few years later, three local women, Lyn Gunn, Betty Harding and Lorna Neal, lobbied tirelessly until they received the necessary government support to build the facility we have today.
The Taree Women and Children's Refuge continues to provide a safe place for local women and their children.
Staff at the refuge can provide a range of support, including accommodation, referrals, advocacy, emergency relief, support groups, access to computers and internet facilities, counselling and legal advice.
The refuge can accommodate five women, with or without children in their care, for up to six weeks. Each woman/family has their own bedroom.
Longer term accommodation in one of three 'exit houses' is also available, for up to six months if necessary.
"Women come to us for assistance and it's our job to look after them," refuge manager Gail Halloran said.
"After their time-out at the refuge, some women decide to return to their partners. We're not here to judge those decisions, only to keep the door open if they ever need it again," Gail said.
Because domestic violence happens in cycles, women are often confused about whether or not they are in an abusive relationship.
There are many forms of abuse, including physical, psychological, sexual, spiritual, financial, social, digital or academic abuse.
Cycle of violence
The cycle of violence happens something like this:
Phase one: Tension increases and the victim feels like they are walking on egg shells.
Phase two: There is an incident, it may be emotional, sexual, physical, or some other display of anger.
Phase three: Known as the 'honeymoon phase' or period of reconciliation where the abuser apologises, gives excuses and promises it will never happen again.
Phase four: The incident is 'forgotten' and there is a calm phase. Sometimes known as the 'calm before the storm' as the victim may feel numb, or uncomfortable, as tension begins to build once more.
"When women come to us, we explain the cycle of abuse and they are usually amazed by how accurate it is," Gail said.
Although staff work very hard to assist their clients, they're not sure what the long term solution is. "When it comes to anger management, I think men need the help of other men," Gail said.
"If they witness their father, brother, uncle or friend saying or doing something violent, they need to step in and say that it's not okay.
"Women have more legal rights than ever before, but this is still very much a patriarchal culture."
Gail said that sometimes women who work in refuges are described as man-haters or radical feminists, but she said this is definitely not the case.
"Of course we don't hate men. How could we? We have fathers, brothers, sons.
"We want abusive men to receive the help they need and we think it has to be through the support of other men," Gail said.
Taree Women and Children's Refuge is a non-for-profit organisation and relies on government grants and community donations. If your business is interested in supporting the refuge, please contact Gail Halloran on 6551 0011.