A new program in Inverell is helping empower women to take back their lives after being victims of domestic violence.
Self-defence classes have started at Sapphire Academy of Sport and the response has been so overwhelming that a fundraiser will be held next month to extend the program.
Jobs Australia Enterprises is running the Step-Up for DV campaign regionally.
Development coordinator-social enterprises, Tracey Reid, said domestic violence was at crisis point in Australia.
"One woman is dying every week; and one man a month," she said.
Inverell has some of the highest statistics in the state according to Ms Reid.
The National Women's Safety Alliance reports that nearly all frontline services have seen an increase in demand for help since COVID started.
More than two in five said wait-lists had been expanded, with one in five having to reduce their services to focus on key areas.
CEO, Dr Renee Hamilton, said to achieve real and lasting positive change, all levels of society needed to be involved.
She said coercive control was the most common risk factor leading up to an intimate partner homicide.
"Domestic, family violence happens when one person in an intimate personal, family, or informal carer relationship, uses violence or abuse to maintain power and control over the other person," Dr Hamilton said.
It's not always physical... A wide variety of abusive behaviors may be used to cause fear including social, financial, psychological and technology-facilitated abuse.- National Women's Safety Alliance CEO, Renee Hamilton
"It does not always involve physical violence. It is usually an ongoing pattern of behaviour aimed at controlling a partner called coercive control," she said.
"A wide variety of abusive behaviours may be used to cause fear including social, financial, psychological and technology-facilitated abuse often accompanied by threats of physical violence.
"Over time this can have a devastating impact on victims' autonomy, independence, wellbeing, and safety."
In 2019 there were 32,078 reported domestic violence assaults in NSW, an alarming average of 91 per day, and in 2021, 43 women in Australia were killed.
"The stats are increasing at a rapid rate and that's alarming," gym manager, Darren Finn, said.
"Domestic violence is coming to light more with some great organisations like JAE, White Ribbon, the Doorways program and others who are doing some amazing things, but the fact that it is coming to light means it's still happening and that's the sad reality," Mr Finn said.
"I believe honestly, when it comes to DV as a whole, sometimes partners can be beat down and they don't feel empowered themselves, so they think they have to stay. They feel useless in life, so they feel trapped. It gets to a point, and they are like, what else do I do?"
And that is where Mr Finn's passion currently lies, in helping women to recognise their worth again.
"No-one is targeting women's self-protection the way I am," he said.
The stuff my nan and mum made me grow up with... this is how you treat a woman, never lay your hands on a woman... I think that's been lost a lot through the different ages. It's rare now.- Darren Finn, Sapphire Academy of Sports
"It's something I've looked at for quite some time now and being a self defence expert first and martial artist second, I know how things work in the real world.
"But this has opened up my eyes to a lot of things... listening to their stories. It has changed the whole way of how I approach everyone. The way I try to conduct myself is the way I want others to conduct themselves around all women - partners and daughters.
"It is something that has grown on me. I wasn't always like this. The way my mentality was when I was younger, was a different mindset. Now, I don't want my daughter ever to go through that. She now trains with me and is growing as a competitor in boxing. She understands what she's got to do and to never deal with it. If it happens once, don't let it happen again.
"In my classes, I make sure the students understand how to conduct themselves. Even general stuff like letting ladies walk out the door first... the stuff my nan and mum made me grow up with... this is how you treat a woman, never lay your hands on a woman. Respect is the key.
Classes have already begun at the academy with three women participating in a 12-week program.
As the first group finishes its last weeks, they will be put into an instructor program.
"Soon we'll be able to let the women who have come through the program conduct their own classes," Mr Finn said.
"The whole aim is to empower these women to run the classes themselves. There is nothing better than a lady coming through that has suffered horrific ordeals and came out the other end, and is now showing that it can be done. That's the ultimate focus," he said.
"As the instructors are coming through, I can continue to teach them and keep them progressing but they will be delivering the classes for the women in the community."
Mr Finn said there was a lot involved in the three-month process.
"The first 12 weeks are really about building relationships because you can't just expect them to come in and focus on something that has caused so much trauma and not have that emotional attachment, especially if it's a physical violence position they have been in. Some suffer from PTSD.
"One lady in the first group, was very emotional and crashing just talking about the program. She told me how she can't handle large crowds. But in six weeks, that lady has now even started boxing. She is now doing the pads and bag work in front of classes. Her confidence as an individual has grown so much already. So to me the classes are already a success, just with that one outcome," Mr Finn said.
With classes underway and word spreading, there are more ladies who would like to join the program.
JAE is now looking to raise some extra funding to extend the classes and help pay for ladies that may struggle to pay the fees to participate on their own.
On August 14 there will be a Step-Up for DV charity golf day. The event will be a three-person Ambrose at the Inverell Golf Club. Please call the club to book or for more details.
"The community have already started to rally behind the program and we have had so much support from the few that we have spoken to" Ms Reid said.
"The classes are helping with women's confidence, fitness and training with women that have had similar experiences."
My research has shown that self-defence classes for women worldwide are very beneficial and successful. It's really important work and these classes are going very well," she said.
There is always a way out and always help available.- Tracey Reid, JAE
Jobs Australia Enterprises has offices across the New England and North West.
"Currently we are promoting this program in Inverell but we are moving forward for the whole region," Ms Reid said.
"JAE's first DV project was a house in Gunnedah for crisis accommodation. All money raised in Gunnedah stayed in the community and we will do the same here," she said.
"And now we are here in Inverell, we will look at a men's program as well. I think that's important to a lot of people; It's not just women who are victims of domestic violence, it's men as well.
"Inverell has a women's refuge, the self-defence classes will be offered free of charge to any of the women's refuge clients.
"In Glen Innes we'd like to build another house. This project is only in the very early stages."
Ms Reid said the most important first step to take if you are a victim is to ring the Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
"There is so much help in the community; don't ever think your community will not support you.
"The Salvation Army, Benevolent Society, Doorways program, Bond support, white goods, food supplies and counselling... There is always a way out and always help available."
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