Violence against women and girls is one of the world’s most prevalent issues of our time, taking place every day, many times over, in every pocket of society and in every nation. UN Women says that Gender-Based Violence (GBV) has serious short- and long-term physical, economic and psychological consequences on women and girls, preventing their full and equal participation in society. The magnitude of its impact, both in the lives of individuals and families and society is immeasurable. Conditions created by the pandemic – including lockdowns, reduced mobility, heightened isolation, stress and economic uncertainty – have led to an alarming spike in domestic violence and have further exposed women and girls to other forms of violence, from child marriage to sexual harassment online.
While much is and still needs to be done in preventing violence against women and children in the first place, there is also great work taking place to restore women to a life free from violence and abuse.
Homes of Peace is Hillsong CityCare’s DFV (Domestic & Family Violence) Transitional Support Program, providing opportunity for women to live independently and safe from their perpetrator and provides DFV case management, safety planning, families achieve incredibly outcomes as they pursue study, start their careers, improve wellbeing through mental health care plans, enrol their children in childcares and schools, obtain independent housing and more.
Just recently, Homes of Peace has been able to support another client move forward into her next chapter towards safety, secure accommodation and independent living, free from violence and the fear of violence.
Athena* comes from a culturally and linguistically diverse community background (CALD) and found herself extremely isolated as she experienced violence from her former partner. As her living situation became unsafe, she fled her home, becoming at risk of homelessness and dwelling in short term refuge accommodation.
Athena had no social support structure, network, or family locally to turn to and had to rely solely on support services to seek safety. She also had to quit her job during this time, and in desperation, she even contemplated returning to perpetrator, due to risk of homelessness and the lack of a stable income. She simply did not believe she would ever be able to rent a property or live independently.
The refuge supporting Athena made a referral for her to enter the Homes of Peace program. On entering Homes of Peace, it was evident that she needed support for long term housing stability, safety planning, mental support pathways, education, employment, and upskilling. Athena became hopeful, resilient, and determined to put further goals and steps in place to succeed.
Among those involved in supporting the client was the Homes of Peace Case worker – Selena. Selena linked Athena to rental support, local housing providers, TAFE, Child Care services, Local Support Services, local GP, and employment support services. Through the case plan support Athena with Selena’s assistance and encouragement was able to go from a state of homelessness into sustainable accommodation, successfully acquiring her first private rental tenancy agreement. Her mental health improved and she was able to proactively apply strategies learnt through her counselling support that was set up through Homes of Peace referrals.
For Athena, this has meant freedom from violence and the fear of violence having secured long term housing, employment, and a greater sense of self-esteem and emotional health and wellbeing.
The support Homes of Peace program provides is an imperative support to women. According to Australian Government statistics 1 in 4 women have experienced abuse by a current or former partner. Women become incredibly vulnerable due to DFV leaving them at risk of homelessness and the stark reality, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is that 42 per cent of individuals accessing homelessness services have experienced DFV, 94 per cent of which were women.
The Impact of COVID has been significant as DFV workers reported 67 per cent increase in the number of clients accessing services during the COVID 19 pandemic, which caused additional demand on crisis accommodation (Carrington, K., et al, 2020).
Our hope is that more and more stories of people like Athena, will allow this ‘shadow pandemic’ to be brought into the light, offering freedom, hope, healing and the opportunity to tackle the root causes,
reshaping our societies to be ones that afford every woman the right to flourish in safety and freedom with dignity and respect.