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The many faces of ABUSE

Think Local

When Susie* stepped off the plane ready for a new life with husband Joe* she was ecstatic.

    They had been corresponding online for two years and during that time he had visited her at home in Asia and not her family. Her parents were happy and convinced ho had honourable intentions and would look alter their daughter.

   Despite the cultural differences, they got on well and when Joe asked her to marry him on Christmas Day she happly accepted. He sent photos of his Dee Why two-bedroorned unit they were to call home and two months later. Joe greeted Susie at the airport with a bunch of flowers.

   He pointed out several beaches on the journey home and when they pulled up outside a scruffy mechanic's shed Susie thought he must be showing her where he worked.

   But things were not as she had been led to believe. “Three hours later I was curled up in the fetal position, bleeding and trying to block the punches raining down on me,” she tells Peninsula Living. " After what seemed like an eternity, he walked out and locked the door.

    “I spoke hardly any English and had no phone, computer -or even money as he had driven off with my bag. But I knew if I didn't get help quickly, I would end up dead.”

    As often happens, Susie was in shock and disbelief that he had lied to her and could be so violent. He eventually allowed her to go to the shops, and on one occasion when the shop keeper asked where she was from and if she missed her family, Susie started to cry and told her the whole story. Another customer kindly offered to drive her to the local police station where they called Manly Community Centre for help.

   Its Domestic Violence Service is primarily a free and confidential support, Information and referral service offered to people who are married or de-facto, male or female, family members - the number of children attacking parents is also rising - elderly and in same sex relationships.

   Since its launch, demand has grown steadily, with an average of four new victims contacting the centre for help each week.

   “They saved my life,” adds Susie. "Emotionally, legally, medically. I didn't know where to start but they helped with accessing safe accommodation.” The senior welfare and domestic violence officer at Manly Community Centre is Anona (Nonnie) Le Page who says, sadly, Susie's story isn't uncommon.

   "Many women come over as a result of meeting men online," she says, "but they end up disempowered, brainwashed and abused. Some people come to us through word of mouth and we have an open-door policy.

  "When people first come to us we assess their situation, give support and advocacy, and if we can't help them to leave there and then, we start an exit plan. The emphasis is on keeping them safe until they can leave, as that's the riskiest time."

   Northern Beaches local area commander, Superintendent Dave Darcy, recently praised the centre's work, saying many risk factors can lead to domestic violence within a family.

   "Those tensions within the family or ... learned behaviour or mental Illness or alcohol or drug dependence or Ice use ... every day there is a family on the northern beaches heading down that conveyor belt," he said at Manly Community Centre's annual general meeting.

   Anona regularly attends Manly Court as a seconded worker for WDVCAS, Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service, as part of her role and is also conducts intake and assessments for women seeking crisis accommodation at Manly Women's Shelter.

    She recommends people in abusive relationships should always have access to their passports and other documents such as birth certificates, bank details, credit cards, medical records, mortgage details and house deeds.

  "It is a big concern how many smart, educated people who are in abusive relationships don't have knowledge or access of household finances," she says. "On the surface they have a comfortable life but then find themselves with no access to money when they decide to leave "Or they may discover the house is in a company name, but can't get access to legal aid because of the asset, and then they find out they're not entitled to anything.

   "Domestic and family violence doesn't respect postcodes and is not associated with any socio-economic status, cultural group or demographic."

   If you are in danger, call the Domestic Violence Telephone Service on 9971 4499, the Domestic Violence Hotline 1800 65 64 63 or the police on 000.

•In 2015, 372 incidents of domestic related abuse were reported to Northern Beaches Police — just a fraction of actual cases that go unreported

• On average they arrest one person every day for domestic violence

• NSW Police estimates an additional 300,000 annual domestic violence incidents go unreported

• More than two million women and 1.2 million men have experienced emotional abuse by a partner, according to the Australian Bureau of Statists' 2014 Social Trends

• There were 12,561 women who were victims of assault in NSW last year — that's 34 a day

• 79 womcn were killed in Australia last year by violent partners

• Nationally, one in two women who seek a refuge from a violent partner are turned away each night

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