'Safe room' for DV victims to open in shopping centre
A "SAFE room" for victims of domestic abuse has been set up in a Sydney shopping centre to enable women at risk to discreetly access help and advice.
The safe area has been established by the Lisa Harnum Foundation at Castle Towers shopping centre, in Castle Hill in the city's north west, as part of its outreach program to help distressed women access help and advice.
Lisa Harnum Foundation Caseworker Linda Lemon said that domestic abuse operated at many levels and for many women the abuse was about control.
"We need to be very aware that women can be followed if they are in a very controlling relationship," she said.
"Their partner will want to know where they are going, why are they going there and who did they meet.
"Having a safe place in Castle Towers gives them the freedom and security to come and in talk about what they need to.
"This space is going to feel very safe for women. It's better than meeting in a coffee shop.
"Every case is different but the first step is hard," said Mrs Lemon.
Lisa Harnum Foundation founder Aileen Mountifield said it has always been Foundation's aim to provide a "safe space" in a public place.
"(It) is discreet, safe and confidential," she said.
"It is not a place that has signs on the door, nor windows to look in to. It is completely secluded and safe.
"As most women shop for groceries it is a normal place to visit on a regular basis.
"It is a normal activity. Not anything unusual.
"A woman can meet with our caseworker to discuss her situation.
"It might be that all the woman wants to do is talk.
"There is no pressure to move on, but if she does need information and professional support we can provide this too."
Mrs Mountifield said for many women the first step in seeking help, created fear and anxiety, shame and guilt.
"Many women would not disclose to their friends in fear that they were not believed," she said.
"(They) would also be reluctant to access a service that maybe too obvious because of signage on the door indicating it was a DV service, or there was lack of privacy, queuing in a waiting room. "
She said the free and discreet service was only possible through the support of the local community.
The Lisa Harnum Foundation provides a range of services for families escaping domestic abuse including the provision of transitional housing in the Hills. It is named after Lisa Harnum who fell from a 15 floor balcony in 2011. Her fiance Simon Gittany was convicted of her murder.