Survivor Stories: Karen

domestic violence survivor holds her son

Karen* is a domestic violence survivor. She was a teenage mom who has suffered a long history of family abuse in her life. There wasn’t a lot of love in Karen’s life growing up, and her poor health left her body fragile. She is 30 years old and has three kids, one of whom is a teenager.

Between her history of trauma and some major financial hardships, Karen was diagnosed with PTSD. This combined with her poor health, make Karen very vulnerable to abuse.

Karen’s teenage son has gotten into a lot of trouble both in school and with the police. He has a history of violent crimes, assaults, and possessing weapons. Unfortunately, his violence doesn’t stop on the street.

He has sexually assaulted his younger brothers causing severe mental health issues for them. He raped his mother on multiple occasions while she was confined to a wheelchair and was sentenced for those crimes. Karen’s son continues to threaten her,  sending her explicit, aggressive texts warning her of what will happen when he get his hands on her.

Karen’s younger boys were taken from her care to get the stability and safety they need, while no one knows the location of the oldest, most violent son.

Karen still receives threats from him, so we were called to make sure her home is as safe as possible.

A new beginning

Like any domestic violence survivor, Karen needs help beyond security, so we have recommended she receive trauma counseling to help with her PTSD.

We gave Karen new locks and security screen doors. We installed cameras and lights in the back and front of her house. She now has a Commsync Alert device so she can call for help with a touch of a button.

Karen’s son has since been arrested and taken into custody. All members of this family are now getting the care and professional help they need to lead a safer and hopefully happier life.

If you would like some more information, please contact us.

 

*Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor.

Home Safety Tips from Former Cops

There is so much more than a secure home than locked doors and windows.  In our 25 years of law enforcement and work with domestic violence, we have seen our fair share of break-ins even with the most obvious safety measures in place. The good news is there are some pretty easy adjustments you can make to make your home safer for you and your family.

Make your street number visible 

You may hide your house number to keep door to door salesmen away or to make the pizza delivery guy’s life a little harder, but it’s actually important for your safety to make sure it’s visible. Make sure emergency services wouldn’t lose a second getting to you if you needed them by making sure your house number is 120 mm in height and is visible at night. Also paint the number outside your home on the curb to be extra obvious.

Don’t lie with warning signs

Let people know that your house is protected and secure with signs. Got a dog? Post a sign. Is there a camera? Let potential intruders know. When you install a security system, you will get a sign, so display it. While these signs look a little meaningless to us  sometimes, thieves know what to look for to confirm if the signs tell the truth. So, do post signs, but don’t lie!

Fences & Gates

Fences and gates are great at keeping people out, but the most important thing to remember is to be sure your home is still visible from the outside. This decreases places for criminals to hide and allows full visibility in case of an emergency.  Consider installing self closing gates  that automatically lock. That way you can be sure your gate is secure at all times. Just don’t forget to bring the key with you! Obviously, you can have the best fence ever made, but it won’t help you if it’s broken or run down. So, be sure to maintain them so they stay in good working order.

secure your fence

Landscaping

Trees & shrubs should be trimmed to reduce hiding places and increase visibility to and from the street. Overhanging branches should be trimmed to prevent people using them to access other parts of the property, e.g. using a tree to get to an upper level.

Security Lighting

Security lighting should be installed around the perimeter of the property make sure there is light when it’s dark outside. Be sure to check and maintain them so they are in good working order. Additional security lighting should be installed, particularly over entry/exit points. Consider using light timers to turn lights on/off when not at home. Timer globes are also available.

Letterbox & Power Board

Put a lox on your letterbox and keep it locked. Criminals can learn a lot from your mail, so keep it tough to access. Also, the power board should be housed within a locked cabinet so no one can mess  with the power supply. Be sure it is approved by your electricity authority.

Garage & Garden Shed

The garage should be locked to restrict access to your house and theft in your garage. Roller, tilt and panel-lift doors can be secured with additional lock sets in the form of hasp,  staple, and padlocks. Garden sheds should be locked and securely anchored to the ground so that criminals can’t lift it. Don’t forget to securely lock the windows in both garages and sheds. Garden tools, equipment and ladders should be locked away when not in use to prevent them being used to gain access to your home.

secure your garage in your home

Doors

External doors and frames should be of solid construction. Although there are no specific fire regulations that for types of locks, it’s best to use quality deadlocks so you can escape in a hurry if you need to. Locks should be checked and maintained on a regular basis to ensure they are in good working order.

Consider having a peephole (door viewer) installed in the door to monitor people at the door.

Don’t leave your keys in the door when you aren’t home so that thieves can’t use your key to get in and out.

Security/screen doors can be used to provide additional protection and the locks should be in good working order. They should be designed and installed to the Australian Standards.

Windows

Window frames should be anchored to the building to prevent easy removal. We recommended that all windows should be fitted with quality key-operated lock sets and kept locked when not in use. Thieves may break glass to unlock windows, so don’t leave keys in the locks.

If you have skylights to your home, keep them suitably secured.

Be sure your glass within doors and windows is reinforced to restrict unauthorized access. You can also reinforce the glass internally with a shatter-resistant adhesive film. If this isn’t an option,  replace it with  laminated glass. Another option is to install bars or shutters for ultimate security.

secure windows in your home

Property Identification

Keep track of descriptions/model/serial numbers and even photographs of your belongings for easy identification. It is also always a good idea to have insurance in case something happens. Keeping track of your property is helpful in case it gets stolen, but in case your computer is taken along with the rest of your stuff, back up this document.

CCTV Cameras

Any existing CCTV Cameras should be checked to ensure they are all in good working order to maximise their effectiveness. IP based CCTV cameras with a recording NVR that can provide remote access to your smartphone or computer are the preferred security feature. Victoria Police prefer IP.

Telephones, internet and GPS devices

Pre-program the emergency number 000 into speed dial in your phone. In case you need it and don’t have time to look it up, place a sticker with the telephone number of the emergency and local police number.

Ensure your mobiles and computers are protected with a passcode.

Check the privacy settings on your phone, computer, and GPS devices to make sure you cannot be traced or tracked via technology

Safes

For added security for valuables such as jewellery, cash and documents, consider installing a safe. The safe should be well concealed, fixed to the floor or embedded in foundations. This can save your personal possessions from being stolen. Do not leave it open for convenience. The key to the safe should be stored out of sight in a separate room. Buy a safe that is manufactured and installed to the Australian & New Zealand Standards.

Key & Valuables Control

Spare keys should not be hidden outside the home but left with trusted friends or neighbours. Keys should not be left in locks or in view but should be kept in a safe location, as thieves may use them to gain entry to your home or steal your car.

Try to limit the amount of cash kept at home, as it is often targeted by thieves and is often not covered by your insurance.

Intruder Alarm Systems

An intruder alarm system can be used to enhance the physical security of your home. Research has shown that monitored intruder alarm systems are more effective in that they alert your security company of intrusions. The intruder alarm system should be manufactured and installed to the Australian & New Zealand Standards for Domestic Applications. Remember to regularly check the battery and test the system.

secure your home for your family

Even if you only implement a few of these safety tips, you will be on your way to making you, your family, and your belongings safer. At the very least, be sure that your existing security measures are in efficient working order. There is nothing worse than a bit of bad luck making you wish you had taken the time to make break-ins tougher.

If you would like some help optimizing the security of your home, contact us.

Is Your Co-worker Experiencing Domestic Violence?

It’s hard to imagine that people in our everyday lives may be victims of domestic violence, but the truth is it happens more often than most of us realize – to friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues.

We spend so many hours of our lives with our colleagues, we may start to pick up on cues that things aren’t right at home. Domestic violence may start with exerting control over finances or with psychological attacks and can end in serious physical harm or death. In the middle may be stalking at work, contact check-ins, and physical signs of violence.

If you suspect that your co-worker may be experiencing domestic violence, here are some signs to watch out for:

Withdrawn and abnormally quiet at work.
Emotional responses that are inappropriate to the situation.
Weight loss.
Bruises anywhere on the body, especially the sides of arms, neck, legs, ankles, and face. (If you don’t see injuries, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.)
They may have a raspy or croaky voice (from strangulation).
Different appearance in clothing or make up
Always in a heighten sense of stress -jumpy, reluctant to engage in conversation
Possible abuser visits work to check in multiple times a day
Excessive sick days
Co-worker shows extra anxiety at breaks and finishing work
Visible bruising/injuries followed by gifts and flowers, etc. at work

domestic violence victim at work

If you suspect a co-worker is experiencing domestic violence, consider who in your workplace would be the best resource. Most companies are by law required to have a safety and health representative, and you can ask Human Resources who they are. That person should have the knowledge and sensitivity to do what is right by your co-worker.

You are not powerless to help. Being kind, patient, and asking if they are ok go a long way in making a victim’s life just a bit easier.

If you are an employer concerned about an employee, contact us to learn how we can protect you and your employees from abuse.

Survivor Stories: Dana

Dana* is a soft spoken, kind, Ethiopian woman who fell in love with a man with aspirations to study in Australia. She describes him as charming and thoughtful when they met. He was reliable and funny, and she was in love. Her family approved and encouraged their relationship. They were married, and soon later he moved to Australia.

She agreed to ;eave her family to follow her new husband to a foreign country where she knew no one. Dana says there were warning signs early in their relationship – strong opinions on what she wore, which friends she saw, and a fondness for whiskey. But he never hurt her. He was the man she fell in love with more often than not.

Almost immediately things started to change. Gone was the funny, reliable man she married and instead she was met with his moodiness, coldness, and control. He prohibited her from leaving the house and threatened her life when she argued with his rules. He held her at knifepoint and raped her at will.

Once pregnant, the abuse escalated. Dana was desperate to leave, but leaving her husband meant being sent back to Ethiopia. Her family did not support divorce and had very traditional views on a woman’s place in her marriage. They shamed her for considering leaving her husband under any circumstance, so Dana felt she had no choice but to endure her husband’s abuse.

Dana had a beautiful baby boy who brought love and joy into her life. Her husband recognized this and used it against her. He extended his violent temper to their son, holding them both at knifepoint to control Dana. He raped her in front of their son whenever it suited him – often heavily intoxicated.

Obsessively checking her cell phone, accusing her of having an affair (even though she never left the house), and restricting access to money were all common place in Dana’s life. She and her son would go days or even a week without a stocked fridge or any money.

African woman crying - stock photo

“I thought I would never escape; I thought I wouldn’t survive. How could I raise a happy child with such a violent man?” – Dana

 

Finally Dana got the help she needed and was connected to us through her son’s school. We met her at her house for a risk assessment. By this time she had a restraining order against her husband, but he would show up drunk threatening her son and abusing Dana.

We checked her doors and windows, installed cameras, and began the legal process to help Dana divorce her husband but still be able to stay in the country. She had no where to go since both her own family as well as his bad in Ethiopia would greet her with anger and most likely more abuse for leaving her husband.

Dana’s story is one of our favorite survivor stories, because she not only had an abusive husband and a newborn son in her life, she had the added challenge of her legal status in Australia. But her story has a happy ending. After months of legal proceedings, she was granted permanent resident status. This meant she was able to leave her husband and stay in Australia with her son under the protection and support of local resources and, of course, us.

She and her son now live safely in a quiet suburb. Her husband is out of her life. Her son is in school, happy and thriving. She has started studying and is working to support herself and her son.

Dana is a true survivor of domestic violence.

If you or someone you know experience similar treatment from a relative, please contact 1-800-RESPECT (737-732) or to explore our services, click here.

*Names and details have been changed to protect the survivor’s identity.

 

Ex-Cops Protect Abused Women

The ex-cops who protect women

Geelong Advertiser
Written by Erin Pearson
Saturday August 22 2015

THEY’RE unconventional ex-cops looking to change the way Australia protects domestic violence victims.

Bolstered with experience from years of working in the force, hospitality and security industries, Geelong father-of-two Stephen Wilson and business partner Steven Schultze are helping build a sense of safety for some of the state’s most abused and vulnerable people.

They delve into the confronting world of cyber abuse, install CCTV outside the homes of women with violent ex-partners, remove tracking devices and reassure victims that some men still do care.

The pair run Protective Group, a private company specialising in risk management, security, investigations and certificate courses, which has helped more than 200 family violence clients in the past 12 months alone – most for free.

“Most recently we’ve been working closely with the Salvation Army’s Safe Futures program, where if someone comes to us as a high-risk victim, we conduct a risk assessment, set up professional meetings,” Mr Wilson said.

“Right now, I get a call from Karen from the Salvation Army(saying)”I have a woman who is very scared, her husband is bashing her door down, I need your help’.

We’ll get there, we’ll get her away, get her to the crisis centre, organise a watch for her, organise an IVO (intervention order), against him and liaise with the police.

“We don’t have to submit a report, we just go out and do it.”

A self-titled “crusty old cop”, Mr Wilson previously spent 15 years with Victoria Police, working with the National Crime Authority and drug squads on cases including large-scale race-fixing and drug importations. He then ran the Royal Hotel in Queenscliff, before venturing into operating a security business.

It was there, he says, that he became aware of the desperate need for help among domestic violence victims “Until you change a male’s way of thinking, you’ve got to look at other options, and if that option is making people safer in their own homes – giving the woman a sense of empowerment back – she’s got control of her life,” Mr Wilson said.

The Geelong Advertiser reported in June that local women’s refuge Minerva Community Services was getting 160 referrals from police each month, with reports of domestic violence in the Greater Geelong region doubling over the past four years.

It is revelations like these that moved Mr Schultze – a former criminal intelligence, homicide and cover operations cop – to present his personal findings at the royal commission into domestic violence in July.

He slammed hold-ups in investigating cases and called for an increased working relationship between private companies, police and state government agencies.

He told the hearing that the most frustrating part of his job was learning that the cases of many terrorized women had “fallen through the cracks” with Victoria Police.

“The police cannot be expected to respond to the 67,000 response call-outs that they receive,” Mr Schultze said.

“However, the reality is that women and children’s violent experiences are not being validated, being left unseen, unheard and unprotected because of system failures, and in some cases, the failure to conduct proper criminal investigation of family violence matters,” he told the royal commission.

“We are determined to wrap a safety net around family violence victims and their families, and understand that while many societal changes are needed to put an end to this insidious issue, in the interim we must protect those that suffer at the hands of present and former intimate partners.”

Since the pair began working with the Salvation Army about three years ago, they’ve been moved to start tapping into technology as a way to break the cycle and address the rise in calls for help.

They have developed a device they have dubbed the “Safety Watch” – designed to empower women and allow them to stay in their own homes knowing Mr Wilson and Mr Schultze are only a press of a button away. They are now pushing to have the new age device included as a government-funded safety rollout.

“When the iWatch came out we realise we could make a similar looking device that could go undetected yet be monitored 24-7,”Mr Wilson said.

“If a family violence victim gets this and feels any angst or had a problem, they can press the red button on the top which goes to a monitoring centre which can hear what’s going on. The device records to catch out any breaches and it can also dispatch police, ambulance or contact a friend to say ‘I think he’s here’.

“We’re now looking at developing a perpetrator anklet that would sync with the watch, so if she’s home in Geelong West and bugalugs goes within 500m of her house, it beeps. Within 100m and it tells her to go inside and lock the door.”

They say that since the Safety Watch was rolled out they’ve seen intervention order breaches drop significantly, with only three reported since 2014.

Salvation Army Crossroads program manager Karen Hagen said the pair’s support for her program was priceless.

Ms Hagen said with domestic violence being the leading cause of homelessness and homicide, urgency was the key. “We need to have the highest level of intervention. Every day we’re meeting high-risk and extremely fearful women, and because of the Protective Group we’re able to work with more women, speed the process up a lot and gain priceless knowledge from them,” she said.

“Yesterday our case manager was paged to review a high-risk house and they found a number of things which we could do. Without this support we would’ve had to wait until the police weren’t busy with an emergency call before we could even attend-and they don’t charge us at all.

“These guys go above and beyond.

Geelong Advertiser Erin Pearson Saturday August 22 2015