05292017Headline:

Breaking the silence surrounding domestic violence

To raise awareness about domestic violence in the Tweed Shire we have published four stories exploring the issue.

If you need help, numbers to call appear at the bottom of this feature.

Firstly, we talk with Tweed Police Detective Brendon Cullen about police's response to domestic violence in the region.

ONE of Tweed's top cops says attending domestic violence cases soaks up a huge amount of police time and can traumatise officers.

He urges the Tweed community to show their disdain for violence in the home.

Tweed Byron LAC Detective Inspector Brendon Cullen said police were exposed to horrific domestic violence situations that could affect them the rest of their lives.

"It consumes so much police time, and rightly so," he said.

"It certainly is traumatic for police, just like everyone else, because we have families and children too.

"When it comes to attending calls for assistance, it's one of the main things we do."

Violence was always difficult to witness, but it was especially hard to also see families falling apart.

Callouts featuring child victims were particularly distressing to officers.

Det Insp Cullen said the public could help drive home the message that domestic violence was unacceptable.

"It's definitely a community thing because traditionally there's a cloak of silence around domestic violence," he said.

"We need to bring attention to the issue, particularly violence against women.

"It's going to be a combination of all people in the Tweed coming together to show it's just not on."

Domestic violence incidents in the Tweed are slowly dropping, with a recent Bureau of Crime Statistics report showing in the last year a 1% reduction in callouts in the Tweed and Richmond.

But there's a long way to go, with 914 domestic assaults recorded in Tweed and Richmond in that period.

NSW Police describes domestic and family violence as "a crime that takes many forms, including emotional and psychological abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking, physical and sexual assault, and can include animal abuse targeting pets, and damaging personal or joint property".

We speak with Tweed Valley Women's Service team leader Jo Cannon, who has been working with domestic violence victims for 16 years.

TWEED Valley Woman's Service team leader Jo Cannon has a simple message for those people who perpetrate acts of violence in their home against loved ones.

"Just stop it," Ms Cannon said. In her 16 years working for the service, Ms Cannon has seen the debilitating physical and emotional pain carried by domestic and family violence victims, time and time again.

"Lots of issues can arise, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and trust issues," she said.

"The scars heal, but the psychological effects can last years and years."

Ms Cannon said there were 26 domestic violence-related deaths last year in NSW, something the service knows only too well.

"The reality is we often have to help women escape from situations where death is a possibility."

"But it's so difficult. If they leave and go to a refuge, for example, they only have a limited time to stay."

"They can lose everything escaping from the situation."

Ms Cannon said domestic violence rates in the Tweed had remained steady since the 1980s, but more cases had been brought to light in recent times due to increased reporting.

"In the early '80s there was nothing. No refuges, no legislation – nothing really," she said. "Now we have grandmothers, mothers, brothers and sisters reporting that their family member needs help."

Male victims can seek help from The Family Centre in Tweed Heads South.

Domestic violence situations vary greatly, but here is just one example being heard at Tweed Heads Magistrates Court.

A FATHER-of-two allegedly choked his pregnant partner and threatened to blow her up with a gas canister, Tweed Heads Magistrates Court heard this week.

The 26-year-old man appeared for mention before Magistrate David Heilpern, charged with 13 offences ranging from assault to handling explosives and supplying drugs.

Pleading not guilty to assault and stalking, the man did not enter a plea for the other 11 charges.

Police allege the trouble began when the man tried to steal an Xbox video game console and gold watch belonging to his partner's brother in November.

About 9.30am the next morning the pair argued over the attempted theft before the man decided he wanted to take their kids out for the day, to which his partner reluctantly agreed.

While waiting for the man's friend at a residence he became abusive, screaming obscenities at his partner until their kids begged him to stop, police claim.

In response the man said he was taking his partner "out bush", driving the family to a secluded dirt road in Byron Shire.

Frightened, the woman called local police and then refused demands by the defendant to find her own way back home.

Police claim he then grabbed a small gas canister and placed it under the bonnet on the hot engine of the car.

"I wouldn't let that sit there for much longer," he allegedly said while his wife began to cry and scream, frantically dialling 000 before her phone ran out of battery.

Getting out of the car, she grabbed the gas canister and the defendant's phone before he grabbed her by the hair and forced her to the ground, grabbing his phone with one hand and choking her with the other, police allege.

When released the woman grabbed the keys to the car, snatched a phone from the boot of the car and called police again.

After arguing again the pair got back in the car and travelled home, where the defendant was arrested by police a short while later

The case has been adjourned for mention at Tweed Heads Court.

Here's a victim's account of how domestic violence physically and emotionally affected her.

The woman, who requested she remain anonymous for family reasons, suffered through her ex-husband's alcohol-fuelled anger management issues for over two decades.

"I stayed, firstly, because I was embarrassed," said the university educated woman.

"I married this man, probably to spite my mother not wanting me to. I wish I had listened."

The woman stayed with the man out of fear, as he threatened to find her if she left him.

"You get to the point that you feel worthless, you have no self esteem and you believe that if you leave, who would have you, where would you go, how would you explain to family members? And the self beat-up goes on and on and on, until you believe you won't make it in the big wide world alone," she said.

"Finally, one day I had to run, because I didn't believe I would be alive the next day."

Several years later the woman still carried the emotional scars from her experience.

"That sort of mental anguish has left me with issues where I cannot trust another man," she said.

"I just want to find someone who wants to love me for who I am, but can I ever trust again? Who knows?"

If you need help:

For women, children and men experiencing domestic violence – DV Hotline NSW 1800 656 463 (24/7)

For men using violence in their relationships – Mensline Australia 1300 789 978 (24/7)

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