Forum on family violence increases understanding and empathy

A lady siting with a group of people

Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Sunbury recently hosted a workshop entitled, Domestic and Family Violence: What is it? What supports are available? led by Nicole Rotaru rsm.

On the evening of 28 November, parish priest, Fr Kevin McIntosh, welcomed 24 participants who attended from the parish community, surrounding townships and local organisations. As the session unfolded the voice of women and children who have experienced family violence was heard through their art works and accompanying stories.

“What has this child experienced that even star fishes and feathers are evil?” commented a participant as she looked at a 7-year-old’s sand tray picture and heard his story, ‘The Creepy World’.”

“How can an environment be so utterly bleak and then filled with potential,” remarked another participant as he pondered a woman’s drawing entitled ‘Then and Now’.

Sr Rotaru explained that there were several pauses throughout the evening to facilitate reflection and comment. She said, “Eyes were opened by the ways a perpetrator uses power and control.

“Family violence is much much more than a person being physically harmed. Isolating the family unit from extended family and friends, and work; taking tight control of finances; belittling with taunts, looks and steely silence; blaming, intimidating, and threatening are just some expressions of calculated power and control the perpetrator uses to dominate. The family home is flooded with an overwhelming sense of dread and fear.

“Children often huddle in a bedroom when ‘it’ is happening not knowing what they will find when they eventually come out. Their imagination runs wild. The trauma of feeling compromised in their relationship with parents and living in uncertainty and un-safety, walking on egg shells, severely diminishes their capacity to learn and thrive.”

As participants worked through stories and art works and linked these with input, their eyes were opened wide. “I am more aware of what domestic and family violence means and perhaps now have a more informed understanding of what I have seen, wondered about and often worried over,” remarked a participant.

Several participants were members of St Vincent de Paul. A member from Moonee Ponds expressed interest in hosting a session for his area. In early October, Nicole facilitated a session for the Box Hill members. This has resulted in the Leadership Team taking the initiative of scheduling several workshops for Vincentians in country areas as well as further sessions for the Box Hill.

For more information, contact Sr Nicole Rotaru via email, here.

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