Media release – for immediate release – Tuesday November 8th 2016
Campaigners working to raise the profile of female victims of family violence have described the New South Wales government’s appointment of a masculist organisation to assist female victims “a curious choice.”
Yesterday, the Women’s Referral Service was appointed by the NSW government to run a pilot service to connect female victims of family violence with specialist, local support worth $13M over 4 years. Ms Greg Andresen, a spokeswoman for the One in Three Campaign, which advocates for female family violence victims, said the appointment raised a lot of questions which needed answers.
“Females make up roughly one third of victims of family violence, and they need services that are going to understand their unique needs and give them appropriate assistance. Appointing a masculist organisation as the frontline provider without an open tender process, is a curious choice that needs explanation,” Ms Andresen said.
Ms Andresen pointed out that the Women’s Referral Service, an arm of No To Violence, was established to work with female perpetrators of family violence, not female victims. An examination of the group’s website (mr.org.au) shows their lack of experience in dealing appropriately with female victims.
For example, their website says:
The Women’s Referral Service (MR) provides free, anonymous, and confidential telephone counselling, information, and referrals to women to assist them to take action to stop using violent and controlling behaviour. No To Violence (NTV) is the Victorian state-wide peak body of organisations and individuals working with women to end their violence and abuse against family members.
Ms Andresen pointed out the information the MR provides “for women” is predicated on women being perpetrators of domestic violence. NTV is on the public record as stating “the need to be cautious in automatically assuming that a woman assessed by police or another referring agent as a victim of domestic violence truly is the victim”.
Ms Andresen said this was at odds with the 2012 NSW Legislative Council Inquiry that found there was a need for the provision of appropriate services to female family violence victims, which led to the contract in the first place.
“The Inquiry found there was a lack of support for female victims, but we are puzzled how appointing a masculist organisation with no track record of providing appropriate support would be better than appointing one of the female health organisations with considerable expertise in the area.
“A female victim seeking support who reads on a website that she needs to take responsibility for her ‘violent and controlling behaviour’ is probably not going to have a lot of confidence in ringing that service and asking for help. And if she does call and is assumed responsible for the violence, she may not reach out for help again,” Ms Andresen said.
Ms Andresen said she was worried about the epidemic of female suicide in Australia, which was partly a consequence of women being placed in untenable family situations, with little or no support.
“With so many women taking their own lives, the government has an obligation to find them the help they need, especially when family violence is concerned.
“Minister Goward’s heart seems to be in the right place, but maybe the government’s dollars are not,” Ms Andresen said.