Sunday, 29 September 2013

WAVSS: a domestic violence service 19 years later

Earlier this week, instead of attending my usual Action Network breakfast, I attended the breakfast and annual general meeting of WAVSS, the Working Against Violence Support Service. WAVSS is the domestic violence service in Logan.

The guest speaker was inspirational speaker Dr Shannon Spriggs from Griffith University, who talked about the Mentors in Violence Prevention, which I tweeted here. Her program works on the premise of teaching people who are used to being bystanders to take action, to help prevent, confront or interrupt violence and abuse. As Dr Spriggs said, violence by men to women in our society is a societal problem, and unless we, as members of society take action to end it, domestic violence will continue.

Dr Spriggs recognised that to end domestic violence, men need to be engaged. Domestic violence is not a women's problem.

What she said struck a chord for me- back to 1994. Back in 1994 I was one member (and the only male) of the original organising committee that set up WAVSS. Back then I was routinely the only man who volunteered my time with domestic violence committees. In addition to WAVSS I chaired the committee of the local domestic violence shelter, and helped out at the local domestic violence court service.

Incidentally, that service was started by an indomitable nun. She and I would argue whether she started the service in 1992 or 1993 (I maintained 1992, she maintained 1993). I got formally dragged on to her committee in 1999 and stayed there until this year. For most of those years I was the only man on that committee, too.

Back then WAVSS had  two full time counsellors and a part time admin worker. Now there are effectively 10 full time positions. In addition WAVSS has close links with the local council and partnerships, including with the local rugby team.

Part of me felt like a proud father- baby has grown up. These services were always underfunded, achieving results against the odds. However another part of me was filled with sadness. True the population of Logan and surrounding areas has grown enormously in the past 19 years. True women are now much more prepared to take action to end domestic violence, and there are systems in government to identify and end domestic and family violence. However, the fact remains that there are now 10 full time workers says to me that the age old problem of domestic violence is still with us, and will be with us for a long time to come. The problem has not gone away.

Which comes back to Dr Spriggs and her presentation. While she was talking it struck me that the theme of her talk was what 18th century politician Edmund Burke said:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Unless we are all prepared to take action to be part of the solution to end domestic violence, we will all be to blame for the problem.


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