Nelson Women’s Refuge staff from left; Katie O’Donnell, Tania Baker, Alisha Lawrence and Erin Sheehan ahead of the organisation’s national appeal next week. Photo: Andrew Board.

Family violence a ‘significant problem’

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Picking up beaten women from Nelson Hospital with bruises around their neck and broken bones is just one of the heart-breaking jobs left to staff at Nelson Women’s Refuge.

Next week is Women’s Refuge Appeal week and Nelson manager Katie O’Donnell says it important for the organisation to attract as much donor support as possible as the money goes directly to helping the refuge support women and children.

Each week around 50 incidents of domestic violence are reported to police in Nelson. Katie says that the true figure of domestic violence incidents is more likely to be 200 a week in our area.

That ranges from people being controlled by their partner to those physically abused and the children who get caught up in the violence.

Katie says in the past year her staff have picked up women from Nelson Hospital with a range of injuries, including broken ribs, strangulation bruising on their neck, and bruises on other parts of their bodies.

“That is our bread and butter. For women it can be very depressing and very isolating.”

She says the number of reported violence cases are “steady” but is rising as population increases and as other agencies work together to help identify family violence cases. “It is a significant problem.”

This year marks women’s refuge’s 40th birthday in Nelson. Katie says the organisation has undergone various different names over that time.

“We’ve changed a lot, back in the 70s it was a small group of volunteers who just did it, they’d put people up in their own homes. Now we’re professionalised with social workers with degrees and we have a very structured way of working and funding that we report on.”

Katie says each year the refuge works with around 300-400 women and children in Nelson. The money raised from their appeal goes to help cover costs. 

“When women come to us, often everything has broken down, no money, no home, no job, a risk of losing their children and violence. So we help them with all of that, we walk alongside them. We rely on the community to help us to do that by donating to us.

“Every time we’re able to help a woman and a child, it’s the best feeling you can get and that’s what the money is used for – to help women and children.”

To donate to Nelson Women’s and Children’s Refuge either deposit money into their bank account, send a cheque, or find them next Wednesday to Friday at either their appeal stand in Nelson city or at Richmond, they will be dressed in purple. The bank account is 03-1355-0637312-00.