DOMESTICS: UP BREAK-INS: UP VANDALISM: UP
By Alex Easton
AFTER five violent relationships, North Coast resident Mary knows what makes men abusers, but it doesn't make them easier to spot.
Mary (not her real name) spoke to The Northern Star about her experience with domestic violence on condition of anonymity, as State Government figures emerged showing a spike in domestic violence assaults on the Northern Rivers.
They show an 18.9 per cent jump in assaults across the Richmond-Tweed Police Commands from 2006 to 2007, after a 10-year run when domestic violence assaults averaged 8.3 per cent growth per year.
The growth concentrated most heavily on Lismore, with a 25.5 per cent spike and a 10-year upward trend of more than 10 per cent per year.
The figures also showed region-wide increases in assault and vandalism. In local government areas the figures jumped in assault at Ballina and Richmond Valley; in vandalism in Lismore, Richmond Valley and Byron; in break and enters in Kyogle and Lismore; and in theft from cars in Richmond Valley.
The figures also show a massive 211 per cent jump in fraud in Byron Shire and a 17.6 per cent drop in shoplifting in Lismore.
Northern Rivers Women's Domestic Violence Court Assistance Scheme regional co-ordinator Kieryn Deutrom chalked the domestic violence increase up to a range of issues, such as economic conditions, increased reporting and inadequate penalties for abusers.
Ms Deutrom said domestic violence was increasing nation-wide and a combination of harsher penalties and stronger education programs starting at childhood were needed to tackle the issue.
However, increased reporting meant official figures would continue increasing in the years to come.
Southern Cross University masters student Trevor Knox is part of a group of students taking their own steps to tackle violence in the home through an awareness-raising carnival, called 'Stomp It', to be held on Sunday, September 9.
Mr Knox said he and his fellow masters students from the Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples began planning the carnival a year ago after studying the impact of abuse on the lives of victims.
Of particular concern was 'trans-generational trauma', where abused children become abusers.
"They try to cope with what's happened to themselves by self-medicating, but drugs and alcohol can have a destabilising effect on the brain and that comes out in violence," he said.
That fits in with Mary's experience, who said childhood abuse played a role in the violence shown in each of her abusive partners and unresolved trauma had been made worse by alcohol.
In one case, Mary said she had been with a partner for years before he began abusing her.
"This was a man who had been severely abused as a child and he'd never done anything about it. In some way our relationship triggered difficulties and his way of dealing with it was to become angry," she said. Mary believed her childhood history of sexual abuse had played a role in her having a long succession of abusive partners, and it was only after being through a few violent relationships she began addressing the issues.