A project by Women’s Health NSW to raise awareness of a non-fatal strangulation (NFS) in sexual and domestic violence cases as a precursor to escalating violence or homicide has received over $870,000 in NSW Government funding.
The “Local Pathways for Victim-Survivors of Sexual Assault related Non-Fatal Strangulation and Traumatic Brain Injury” project is one of 14 projects receiving joint Commonwealth and NSW funding as part of the Sexual Violence Project Grants.
The initiative will run across 15 Women’s Health NSW sites across the state, with one based in Lismore. The project will develop resources, training, assessment and screening tools to raise awareness of NFS risks in the community, and the NGOs, justice and primary health sectors. This will include referral pathways and protocols to share tools and resources so that GPs and sexual violence support services are equipped to recognise NFS and provide appropriate response.
Federal Assistant Minister for Social Services and for the Prevention of Family Violence Justine Elliot said the Sexual Violence Project Grants, as part of the National Partnership on Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence responses, support vital prevention and early intervention.
“The Commonwealth is deeply committed to working with the NSW Government and all other states and territories in stopping sexual violence and providing holistic support for victim-survivors,” Assistant Minister Elliot said.
“We know how important it is to provide greater access to these services for people in our regions, and that is especially true for the Northern Rivers who are still recovering from the ongoing impacts of the devastating floods.”
NSW Minister for Regional Health Ryan Park noted the important role that Women’s Health Centres play in regional towns like Lismore, providing women with access to vital information and resources, support services and specialist referrals.
“For women and children affected by domestic violence or sexual assault, this service is crucial, allowing them to receive help in a timely way,” Minister Park said.
“The NFS project is timely – making sure women, service providers and the police understand the effects of non-fatal strangulation and other forms of violence that can lead to traumatic brain injury.”
NFS is a serious and violent form of intimate partner violence and is a factor in many incidents of sexual assault. Victims of NFS are at elevated risk of future homicide and often sustain serious injuries with cumulative and long-term impacts over time.
NSW Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Jodie Harrison said the grants program supports the delivery of actions under the NSW Sexual Violence Plan 2022-2027.
“Sexual violence has a devastating impact on victim-survivors and those around them,” Minister Harrison said.
“Early intervention, and in the case of NFS, rapid response, is critical to reducing the prevalence of and preventing further incidents that might lead to death.
“Women in Lismore have had a tough few years, and those experiencing domestic or sexual violence, even more so. We know that external factors, such as the pandemic, lockdowns and recent floods heighten emotions and can cause violent episodes to rise.
“NFS in sexual assault or domestic violence cannot remain hidden behind closed doors. This project by Women’s Health NSW is important to raise awareness of what it is and where victim-survivors can go to for assessment and care, as well as making sure support services know what to look out for and provide the right help.”
Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin MP said: “We are well aware that women who are victim-survivors of sexual assault have had to endure even more tricky situations due to lockdowns and displacement from COVID and floods”.
“This makes their situation even more precarious and this additional support will help their recovery,” Ms Saffin said.
CEO Women’s Health NSW Denele Crozier AM said there is an urgent need to embed quality NFS training and assessment tools within domestic violence and sexual assault support services so they can provide a rapid and coordinated response to NFS victim-survivors.
“Half of all strangulation injuries leave few physical signs and are often missed by medical professionals, police and social workers. Victim-survivors are also unaware of the long-term consequences to their health and safety and do not report it,” Ms Crozier said.
“Women need to know that the next bout of violence could lead to major life changes that could affect their capacity to work or care for their children. Women and the service sectors need to know strangulation is a key risk for victim-survivors.”
Including Lismore, the project will run in Women’s Centres in Western Sydney, Sydney, Cumberland, Blue Mountains, Hunter, Central West, Shoalhaven and North Coast.
For more information on the successful grant recipients of the NSW Sexual Violence Project fund, visit https://www.dcj.nsw.gov.au/service-providers/supporting-family-domestic-sexual-violence-services/dfv-programs-funding/nsw-sexual-violence-project-fund.html.