Illawarra Women’s Health Centre’s discreet new initiative


That’s one of the new resources the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre has developed to help isolated women experiencing domestic and family violence.

A small card – which also contains vital contacts in an unobtrusive way – will be distributed to women as part of the initiative, called A Little Bird Told Me.

Kim Sattler, a disability and domestic violence worker, said the aim was to get the information into the hands of those who needed it – without putting them in further danger.

“What we know is that two out of five women experiencing domestic and family violence don’t know how to get help,” she said.

“They don’t know where local services are located or what they are called; they have no connections to the community sector.

“However they may be fearful of bringing home brochures or booklets with ‘domestic violence’ written on them, in case the perpetrator finds them which can make the situation worse.”

For that reason the resources will be distributed to places where women traditionally go on their own – the hairdressers, beauty salons, the chemist or the doctor.

“Often these women are so tightly controlled that they are not allowed to go anywhere on their own,” Ms Sattler said.

“We’ve had men try to attend appointments at the women’s health centre with women, and when told they are not allowed inside they stand outside in a threatening manner.

“If they’re prepared to act like that out in public, imagine how they act at home?

“That’s why we are putting these resources at places where even women who are tightly controlled may be allowed to go on their own.

“Hairdressers in particular can be very close with their clientele – and they’re likely to notice changes in behaviour or mood, or injuries, and can discreetly give them the resources.”

The small card – featuring the work of a local artist Anthea Stead on the front – together with the banner pen, can be tucked into a woman’s handbag for easy access.

“Women don’t seek help for a range of reasons, and it can take a long time to make the decision to leave,” she said. “So these resources can stay in their bag until they are ready to reach out.”

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery is supportive of the initiative, which he will officially launch on Friday at Sanity salon in Warrawong.

The resources have been developed thanks to grants from the Illawarra Yacht Club and Oak Flats Bowling Club.

The women’s health centre is looking for more distribution points across Wollongong and Shellharbour. Call 4255 6800.

Help at hand: Domestic violence support worker Kim Sattler with peer support group members Sue Cole and Hannah Muldowney, and the new cards and the pen which conceals information within the barrel. Picture: Anna Warr

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