In the first six weeks of 2015, CatholicCare Sydney’s telephone counselling service Parent Line NSW has received a 300% increase in the number of calls from families experiencing domestic violence, compared to the same period in 2014.
“We believe it may be a result of the increased public awareness surrounding family violence following Rosie Batty’s appointment as Australian of the Year,” says Parent Line Coordinator, Nichola Marsonet.
Ms Marsonet says family violence is not limited to interactions between spouses. It has a significant effect on children’s lives as well, negatively impacting academic achievement and social relationships, and causing emotional distress.
“Our counsellors listen to concerns, validate the difficulties of parenting under extreme stress and help parents begin to regulate their own emotions,” she says. “This is important so parents can listen to and empathise with their children’s often frightening experiences of living in a family violence situation.”
Parent Line counsellors are trained to recognise signs of domestic violence and ask specific questions to help parents assess whether it’s occurring in their home.
“We help parents experiencing family violence understand there are a range of behaviours that are used to control and intimidate family members,” she says. “After measuring the family’s safety we provide information about appropriate police and specialist family violence agencies, including those providing safe accommodation. We also offer referrals to parent education programs and legal services.”
Ms Marsonet says while the majority of calls regarding family violence come from mothers suffering abuse at the hands of a male partner, the service also receives calls for assistance from fathers and parents in same-sex relationships.
“Family violence seriously affects children and it’s important to take steps to ensure their safety,” says Ms Marsonet. “We encourage any parent who thinks their children may be affected by family violence to call us on 1300 1300 52 and speak to one of our qualified counsellors. However, if any family member is in danger, it’s important to call 000 immediately.”
For more information about how Parent Line assists parents experiencing family violence call 1300 1300 52 (Mon – Fri 9am to 9pm; Weekends 4pm to 9pm) or visit www.parentline.org.au