SAFE Haven Community, a non-government assisted charity, has flown under the radar for six years supporting survivors of coercive control; women falling through the cracks of domestic violence because they were unable to evidence their abuse.
The charity aims to provide early intervention pathways that allow women and their children to escape abusive relationships before the situation escalates to physical violence.
It is achieved by approximately 400 volunteers donating their spare rooms as crisis accommodation to women who need a safe place to stay.
Safe Haven Community launched its Fiver for a Survivor fundraising campaign to build a wholly-owned and operated safe house as another option to help transition women and their children into more permanent accommodation.
Jaeneen Cunningham, Safe Haven Community’s executive director, said the goal for the Fiver for a Survivor funding drive is to have 4000 people donate $5 a week for 52 weeks.
“The $1 million-plus objective will increase our service offering to include the current community crisis housing as well as a purpose-built short term secure safe house or two,” Ms Cunningham said.
Coercive control abuse is generally not physical but perpetrated behaviourally by isolating a partner from friends and family, controlling activities, using tracking devices on mobile phones to monitor travel and supervising appearance and regulating access to money.
Ms Cunningham describes coercive control in a relationship as demoralising and inhumane.
“A woman living in this situation feels no security in her home,” she said.
“The perpetrator is a king in his kingdom and a coward in public.”
Ms Cunningham said Safe Haven’s community members, in regional and metropolitan areas in all Australian states, are similar to the French resistance underground who assisted the vulnerable during the war.
“The resistance recognised people who needed support without seeking awards or accolades,” she said.
Many of their room providers are older women who have experienced domestic violence in the past, and now their partners have passed away, they are willing to help.
“They tell us that having lived a life of abuse if they had this service years ago, they would never have stayed in their relationship,” Ms Cunningham said.
Providers offer a room and security to their guests; they do not offer counsel nor stand in judgement of them.
Ms Cunningham said their services are designed to give the guest back their dignity and trust and become independent and strong again.
“There are currently about 850,00 women going to work and living in coercive control,” she said.
“We are at the forefront of supporting women and children fleeing domestic abuse with crisis accommodation.
“Our service is saving lives and making a huge difference directly to survivors.”
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