Tumut has the twelfth highest rate of domestic violence related assaults per head of population in NSW, the latest statistics from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show.
Tumut Regional Family Services (TRFS) Manager Debbie Sturt said she was unsurprised by the figures, which have placed Tumut in the top quarter of NSW shires for this crime for many years now.
However, she believes that this is because more people in Tumut feel comfortable reporting their situations to police, thanks to a level of service that many similar-sized towns are lacking.
“Because preventing domestic violence is advertised a lot now and it’s spoken about more in the media, people are actually coming forward and reporting, whereas before it was kept silent,” she said.
“We’ve always been in those top figures, and I do feel a lot of that is because of the media – people that have been living in family violence situations have the courage to stand up because they know there’s an out. They know they’re going to be financially supported, and assisted with housing here.
“Most people in country towns of this size would have to travel pretty far for support, and I think we as a community should be proud that we have the sorts of supports that we have.”
Ms Sturt said her service has seen a rise in two groups in particular: single men with young children, and elderly women.
She attributes this too to advertising and media. In the past, fathers in family violence and homelessness situations may have been reticent to seek help due to regressive notions about masculinity, and elderly women have lived most of their marriages in a time when domestic violence was considered a private matter.
However, thanks to a concerted effort to counter this social messaging, these groups are now increasingly likely to report their circumstances to police and TRFS.
Tumut is also a hotspot for women in other areas to flee family violence, because the TRFS offers housing and support. If their former partners manage to track them down then they can show up on our police stats.
Ms Sturt admits there are other reasons Tumut is high on domestic violence related assaults, however.
“Drug and alcohol and mental health issues are certainly on the rise, which is certainly a big factor,” she said.
“There’s an isolation side of things as well; we are a bit isolated here in Tumut and it’s hard to get transport to other areas. If people don’t have a car or they can’t drive it takes a bit of effort to get out.”
In the past two years in NSW, 99 women and 47 babies and children were killed by their current or former partners.
These murders are most likely to happen in the first two weeks after the woman leaves.
The areas with the highest rates of domestic violence related assault per head of population in NSW are: Bogan Shire, Bourke, Central Darling, Coonamble, Dubbo, Forbes, Glen Innes Severn, Hay, Kempsey, Liverpool Plains, Moree Plains, and Tumut Shire.