OPINION: Sign up, pledge, speak out

Eastlakes Domestic Violence Committee members Jess Salvador, Michelle Avery and Roz Smee for Reclaim the Night.I CONGRATULATE the Newcastle Herald on its story on domestic violence and women who shared their personal stories of abuse.

Twenty years ago, while six months pregnant, I escaped an abusive relationship and I know how hard it can be to make the decision to leave.

These days there are so many options for women and children to be able to get the help and support needed to be relieved from toxic relationships.

No one needs to put up with any type of physical, mental, emotional or financial abuse.

At last week’s Westlakes Domestic Violence Committee White Ribbon breakfast at Toronto, we listened intently to a young woman’s story of abuse by her own father, from age four to six, and of her sister, from six to eight.

This happened after their Mum had passed away and the last time they felt his abuse, they both ended up in hospital for a week.

Thank god they have a caring Grandma who raised them and guided them both on the right track. They are not victims, they are survivors, with great careers, but there were not many dry eyes listening to their story and I am sure they will never forget their gloomy early years.

Lani Brennan is another survivor and I encourage people to read her book, Lani’s Story. She is fortunate to still be living and to be able to share her horrific story.

Yesterday, on November 25, White Ribbon Day, 16 Days of Activism started to raise awareness of domestic violence. It is everyone’s business. If you hear your neighbour screaming or know of someone being abused, please contact the police. You could be saving a life.

On Friday, November 28, an awareness walk presented by Warlga Ngurra Women’s and Children’s Refuge called Walk a Mile Koori Style starts at 9am from Fletcher Park, from opposite Newcastle Police Station to King Edward Park.

Men are offered the opportunity to sign the pledge that they will never, ever hit a woman.

All are welcome to attend, walk and pledge.

On Friday, December 5, the Koori Love Shouldn’t Hurt forum will be held in Newcastle West and bookings are essential.

The Eastlakes Domestic Violence Committee has distributed a Poster and Coaster campaign throughout local licensed premises with the aim to encourage anyone that knows of an abusive relationship to speak up and not choose to ignore it.

Domestic, family and sexual violence must cease from this day forward!

On Friday, October 31, the Westlakes and Eastlakes Domestic Violence Committees joined together to host a Reclaim the Night march in Warners Bay.

Usually held in Toronto, this year the committees decided that Warners Bay would be a better way to reach a larger number of people due to the bustling esplanade.

With more than 80 people attending, including men, women, youths, the mayor of Lake Macquarie and local MPs, the march was a success as all marched down The Esplanade, chanting, playing instruments and raising awareness of the prevalence and non-acceptance of sexual violence against women.

The crowd were entertained by local singers Cameron Macey and Teisha Jackson, and well fed by the Warners Bay Scouts sausage sizzle.

One in five women in Australia experience (reported) sexual violence, and 190 cases of sexual assault were reported in Lake Macquarie last year.

One in three Australian women experiences violence in an intimate relationship.

This is certainly an issue the whole community needs to know about, and to stand up and say no to. The streets and community spaces should be a safe place for all women, children and men and for these areas to be free from any acts of violence.

Eastlake and Westlake Domestic Violence Committees meet monthly and are both made up of various organisations, workers and community members to raise awareness in the community about violence against women and to ensure that we are all working together in the best way to combat the issues and daily struggles that we face when working with victims and perpetrators.

The committees have members from NSW Police, women’s refuges, various government agencies, counselling services, housing services, domestic violence services and youth services.

All members are dedicated to raising awareness in the community, developing campaigns to encourage others to stand up and say no if they see or hear something and of course to hopefully one day end sexual, domestic and family violence in our society.

Maree Edwards is Aboriginal Community Development Officer at Lake Macquarie City Council. The NSW domestic violence helpline is 1800656463.

If you are interested contact Roz or Michelle on 49439255 for Eastlakes or Jess on 49210373 for Westlakes.

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