A pilot project in Mount Gambier is giving at-risk women a much-needed space to share their story and find hope in one another.
The six-week Stepping Out With Strength group brings together women who are rebuilding their lives in the wake of domestic and family violence.
Centacare South East began the group in October to address a gap in post-crisis supports for women.
Family Relationship Counsellor Deb Jackson says the group has helped participants to understand the impact of abuse on their sense of self, decision-making and their children.
“It has helped them to set aside any feelings that they had failed, or that they were to blame in some way for the violence,’’ she said.
Common themes raised by the women include social isolation, maternal alienation, and overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame.
Deb said post-crisis supports which empowered women to make informed decisions and understand perpetrator use of power and control were vital in maintaining their safety and breaking cycles of domestic violence.
“The trauma that’s experienced is ongoing; it can really impact people’s lives for years to come, and also their children,’’ she said.
“Some of the women are noticing their children are exhibiting some harmful behaviours so they have been helping each other with strategies for that and really sharing the pain of what their children are going through.’’
Supported by Soroptomists International Mount Gambier, a Mount Gambier church and a local bakery, the group will meet next week for the final session this term, and will have a celebration luncheon the week after.
Centacare South East plans to repeat the group early next year, during the first school term.
“A lot of the time, women don’t share openly with friends or family because they haven’t walked the same journey,’’ Deb said.
“So it’s really powerful to be in a group where you know other people just get where you are coming from and can relate when you share experiences and open up.’’