Rural Outreach and Support pair talk about taking on domestic violence

DEDICATED: Kerrianne Anderson and Vicki Higgins work with many locals affected by family violence.
DEDICATED: Kerrianne Anderson and Vicki Higgins work with many locals affected by family violence.

The cycle of violence is all too real to Kerrianne Anderson and Vicki Higgins, who have spent years helping Inverell families affected by abuse. 

The Rural Outreach and Support Service pair, who also worked for the local women’s refuge, said it was difficult to see generation after generation walk through the door.

“It’s a circle,” Kerrianne said.

“There is so much support out there, but a lot of people don’t acknowledge or take responsibility for it to go out and get the help that they may need.”

Vicki agreed, but felt many were facing an uphill battle.

“If you’re brought up in a household like that, quite often you think that’s just the normal thing. They don’t think they need help,” she said. She said many struggle to see the red flags in volatile relationships before they become physically violent because “they happen gradually”.

Warning signs of violent partners included verbal abuse, emotional abuse and isolation from friends and family.

“It can start with just belittling you in front of somebody,” Vicki said. She and Kerrianne agreed that abusive relationships were characterised by a lack of respect and need for control.

On breaking the cycle, Vicki challenged locals not to let abusive behaviour pass by them.

“Don’t be a bystander. Be an active bystander, where it’s safe,” she said. “(When) someone says something that’s really sexist and out of whack with things - stick up for what you believe in. That’s the start of it all.”

Seeking to reach locals before violence becomes an acceptable part of their lives, Kerrianne is preparing to deliver school-based sexual assault education program Love Bites. The program has found success with year 10 students, but this time will begin with year seven.

Keen to beat the cycle, White Ribbon Australia is seeking local opinions with a town-wide survey on domestic violence. To participate, visit the council website or internet kiosks at the library, Linking Together Centre and the council administration centre by April 30.