This summer, as 2020 draws to a close, West Australians will be spending more time closer to home than ever before. While the lead-up to Christmas for many families is often full of joyful get-togethers and festivities, for those who are experiencing family or domestic violence preparing for the holiday season can be full of anxiety and dread.

“There can be increased pressure to spend time with others, as well as unplanned or forced contact with family members” says Inez Carey, Client Services Manager of new family and domestic violence service  DVassist.   The service provides free support and counselling for any person who feels unsafe, scared, disrespected or controlled in their relationship.

DVASSIST was founded by Esperance based author, Fleur McDonald, who often had conversations with people living rurally about the need for a family and domestic violence service that was specific to the needs of RRR people. DVassist began with an online service directory and website and, in October, they launched a new regional specific domestic violence helpline. “In many regions of WA, people know you, the person using violence against you as well as your children and other family members. It can be near impossible to have that first conversation in a private, confidential and safe way” Inez says.

The DVassist team is made up of qualified counsellors who have worked with people living in regional and remote areas experiencing violence. “Our counsellors have knowledge of the different regional areas across WA and it means that they can work alongside a person to develop a safety plan based on their individual circumstances and the barriers they face in accessing support” says Inez. They also hear from family, friends and community members who are concerned about someone close to them and want some advice on how to have that first conversation.

The team have just launched a new campaign It’s ok to ask for help in the lead up to Christmas when police and crisis services traditionally see a spike in domestic violence related incidents. DVassist hopes the campaign, airing on the GWN7 network and across Facebook, Instagram and local print and radio, will help challenge the commonly held view that ‘what happens behind closed doors is no one else’s business’. “For many people across RRR WA, there might only be one face-to-face service specific to their needs and that might be half a day’s drive away. Having a second option to access support such as DVassist is so important to people who have had their choices and rights denied them by the person using violence” says Inez

The DVassist telephone support service is available on free-call 1800 080 083. It operates from 10am to 7pm, Monday to Friday. For services in your regional area, you can go to their website at https://dvassist.org.au/