Strangulation of women has emerged as a new trend among perpetrators of domestic violence in Naracoorte and its surrounding towns.
The revelation was made by the Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service (LCDVS), which noted an increase in reports of women being strangled by their intimate partners in the last six months.
LCDVS regional manager Susie Smith told The [Naracoorte Community] News that strangulation was one of the most common acts disclosed by clients seeking specialist domestic violence and homelessness support at Centacare.
“Disclosure of physical force to the neck indicates the client is at high or extremely high and imminent risk,” Ms Smith said.
She said almost all women who scored as high on a risk assessment indicated strangulation as a form of violence used, whether it be just once or multiple times over the course of the relationship.
“Often women don’t recognise a forearm, knee, or push to the throat as strangulation. If a woman discloses any form of trauma to the neck areas, we start to question more deeply, educate, and counsel.’
“The prevalence of strangulation triggers staff to seek more information about the pattern of the perpetrator’s use of violence and to support the woman in seeking medical attention.’’
She said coercive control of women was also an issue of concern in towns like Naracoorte, an insidious and too often unseen form of domestic violence with horrifying outcomes.
From July 2022 to April 2023, LCDVS registered 173 cases of women from the region seeking help for domestic violence-related matters.
In 2021–2022, LCDVS supported 194 clients (144 women and 50 children and young people). Of those, 24 clients identified as Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander and 12 as CALD.
In 2021–2022, Southern Country Domestic Violence Services collectively supported 782 women.
Ms Smith said gender inequality in the region was a key driver of violence against women.
“Gender inequality is the number one driver of domestic abuse. Communities can contribute to reducing domestic and sexual abuse by calling out gender inequality in all its forms and in all the aspects of community life where it prospers.
“The silence of the community allows gender inequality and violence against women to thrive,” she said.
Ms Smith said the cost of violence against women and their children was estimated at $26 billion a year, but the toll it takes on those who experience it was immeasurable.
“Violence against women takes a profound and long-term toll on women’s health and wellbeing, on families and communities, on children, and on society.
“Women who experience partner violence often experience depression. Domestic or family violence is a leading driver of homelessness for women and children.”
She said many women in Naracoorte and nearby towns were homeless because of domestic violence.
“Domestic violence in rural areas often forces victims and their children to leave communities like Naracoorte and the surrounding towns, as the closest safe accommodation is at least 100 kilometres away.
‘’This results in families effectively being ripped out of their support network, extended family, employment, schools, and so on.
‘’What we know is that once women and children are placed into emergency care, it is very difficult for them to find stable long-term accommodation due to the housing crisis that the nation is currently facing.’’
She said what was more challenging for regional women was the pathway into stable, secure long-term housing.
“In Mount Gambier, the growing shortage of public housing is keeping women in crisis accommodation for longer at the expense of those at imminent risk.
“It costs Centacare about $360 to keep a family safe each night, including accommodation and food, transport, essential clothing, health, and personal expenses.”
She said successive governments have sold off public housing right across the state—Mount Gambier is a case in point.
“The few properties left only go to the very high end of complexity, so our clients are competing with other cohorts across homelessness, mental health, and substance misuse.
“That means women are stuck in crisis accommodation for far longer than they should be.
“The domestic violence has passed, the intervention order is in place, he’s disappeared, and she is ready to move on—but she can’t because there is nowhere to go.
“That blocks up the crisis end because we can’t keep moving women through the continuum of emergency, crisis, and transitional accommodation to a safe exit point.’’
Ms Smith said their research has found women in regional, rural, and remote areas are more likely than women in urban centres to experience domestic and family violence due to the cultural and social characteristics of living in small communities and towns.
“There is a common view in rural communities, including the Limestone Coast, that family problems such as domestic and family violence are not talked about.
“This serves to silence women’s experience of domestic and family violence and can deter them from disclosing violence and abuse.
“Fear of stigma, shame, community gossip, and a lack of perpetrator accountability deter women from seeking help.
“A lack of privacy due to the high likelihood that police, health professionals, and domestic and family violence workers know both the victim and perpetrator can inhibit women’s willingness to use local services.
“Women who do seek help may experience difficulties in accessing services due to geographical isolation, a lack of transportation options, and not having access to their own income.”
Ms Smith said multi-agency collaborations played a role by working to build cultural and attitudinal change to challenge the condoning of violence against women and embed prevention activities across communities, while also building resilience.
She said there was no excuse or reason for violence.
“Perpetrators make a choice to use violence in the home. The responsibility sits squarely with them.’
“Support is available in South Australia to assist perpetrators in changing their abusive and violent behaviour.”
To the victims of domestic violence, Ms Smith said support was always available, even though you may feel alone.
‘’Please reach out for support. We will do our absolute best for you, and we will work with you to keep you and your children safe.’’
The South Australian director of the Office for Women, Dr Sanjugta Vas Dev, told this newspaper that violence against women was a widespread problem in Australia.
“Women are much more likely to experience violence from someone they know than from a stranger. Approximately one quarter of women in Australia have experienced at least one incident of violence by an intimate partner,” Dr Dev said.
She said women often experienced multiple incidents of violence across their lifetime.
“On average, one woman is killed by her intimate partner every 10 days. It is estimated that violence against women and children costs the economy $26 billion each year, with victim-survivors bearing approximately 50 percent of that cost.”
She said the crisis was preventable, and South Australia has joined with the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments to release the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032 that works towards ending the pandemic.
SA Police said domestic violence, by its nature, was disempowering and damaging to victims, and the victims remained among the most vulnerable of victims of crime.
“Family and domestic violence is not discriminatory and can occur in all aspects of the community.
The impacts can include physical and psychological harm, controlling behaviours and undue harassment with flow on impacts elsewhere in the targeted person’s life,” a police spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said each domestic or family violence incident or report was initially dealt with by front line responders according to the individual circumstances and the assessed risk to the victim.
“Further support to patrols and community is available through trained Family Violence Investigation officers.
“In all cases, police are required to take positive action to prevent an escalation of violence, to meet the safety needs of victims and children, and to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.”
- Domestic Violence Crisis Line (SA 24/7): 1800 800 098
- 1800 RESPECT (National 24/7): 1800 737 732
- Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491
This article appeared in the Naracoorte Community News.