Welcome to Victim Support Service

Victim Support Service (VSS) provides free and confidential help to adult victims of crime, witnesses, their family, and friends across South Australia. We work in partnership with other organisations, we are not a government agency or part of the police and you don't have to report a crime to get our help. It doesn’t matter where the crime happened and you can call us any time after the crime, whether it was yesterday, last week or several years ago.

CE update: Federal election worryingly silent on homelessness

One of the grey areas throughout this long election campaign has been the lack of certainty surrounding funding for housing and homelessness strategies amongst the major parties. Recently Anglicare called on all parties to outline their plans to develop an effective affordable housing strategy and reduce homelessness so that voters who were particularly concerned by this issue could make an informed decision at the ballot-box.

Of most concern to VSS is that the 2016 Federal Budget did not identify funding for the current National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) beyond 30 June 2017, the agreement’s current term.

Our National Award winning program, Staying Home Staying Safe, has been funded since 2011 through NPAH. The program aims to reduce the risk of homelessness for women (and their children) that have been affected by family and domestic abuse by providing comprehensive risk assessment, safety planning, safety packs, mobile phones, home security audits and home security upgrades to eligible clients. It has been so effective that funding for the program will be doubled from July 2016 as part of the Turnbull government’s ‘Keeping Women Safe in their Homes’ strategy.

Ironically, this new funding is for two years to June 2018. But the program will effectively be back to previous funding levels if the NPAH funding ends in June 2017.

Family and domestic violence is the biggest cause of homelessness amongst women and children in Australia. We need a sustainable, long term funding commitment to tackling homelessness from all political parties if we are going to provide the support that women and children need either to remain in the family home or find alternative safe accommodation.

Julian Roffe
Chief Executive, Victim Support Service

20 June 2016

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Program News: Over 3000 hours of free legal assistance provided to victims of crime

Our Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service (WDVCAS) provides free independent legal advice on all matters relating to intervention orders and residential tenancies. Since the program started in July 2015, we've provided over 3000 hours of pro bono legal assistance to women who have experienced family and domestic abuse.

Word is spreading about the impact that access to free legal assistance is having on the lives of victims of family and domestic violence in South Australia. Check out this article in the Australian Pro Bono News that features our WDVCAS team. 

 

Program News: Eight-week facilitated support group for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse

Commencing Adelaide Tuesday 26 July 2016. Places are lmited.  More information can be found here. Register here 
 

 

Program News: Changes to renting laws help protect victims of DV

Everyone has the right to feel safe and live in an environment free from violence. Renting laws changed on 10 December 2015 to provide more options to help victims escape domestic violence. Victims can now either stay at the rented home and have the perpetrator leave, or leave the rented premises and be removed from the rental agreement.

  • Staying means applying to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) to have the perpetrator removed from the rental agreement.
  • Leaving means applying to SACAT to either end your part in the agreement or terminate the agreement altogether.

Other changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 (SA) empower SACAT to determine if one or more, but not all co-tenants, are liable for compensation to the landlord. SACAT can also prohibit a tenant’s personal information being listed on a Residential Tenancy Database (tenant’s blacklist) in certain situations of domestic violence (for example, where the damage was caused from an act of abuse against the victim).

The Women's Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service can assist in in making applications to SACAT. For more information visit our webpage, call the Victim Helpline on 1800 VICTIM (1800 842 846) or email wdvcas@victimsa.org.

 

VSS wins State Merit Award at 2015 Australian Crime & Violence Prevention Awards

On 1 December 2015 Victim Support Service (VSS) was presented with a State Merit Award at the annual Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards in Canberra. 

The award recognises the success of VSS’ Staying Home, Staying Safe program in reducing and preventing violence against women affected by family and domestic abuse.

VSS Chief Executive Julian Roffe says the Staying Home, Staying Safe program has helped to improve the safety of almost 3000 women in South Australia.

The program is funded as an initiative under the Federal National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH).

Find out more about the Staying Home, Staying Safe program. 

 

Client News

On 15 March leading organisations working with child abuse victims released a media statement calling for urgent action for a National Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional childhood sexual abuse.  The organisations call on the Federal Government to show real leadership and advocate that a “National Redress Scheme will achieve significant efficiencies in administration, be less complex for survivors and deliver consistent and fair access, as well as treatment for survivors – regardless of the institution and its characteristics in which the abuse occurred and no matter where they live.”

VSS supports the call for Federal Government leadership to implement the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Read the media statement United Call for Urgent Action on Redress.

 

Current opportunities

Volunteering opportunities

We are looking for volunteers to help out in different areas of our organisation. Our volunteers offer their skills, their time and their experience to help us carry out the work we do to help victims of crime. There are lots of different ways that you can get involved as a VSS volunteer. 

Find out more about the different types of work that you could be doing. 

Get Resources

Resource of the Week

PTSD workbook 3rd edition: Simple, Effective Techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms

by Mary Beth Williams & Soili Poijula, 2016. [Electronic book (password required)]  
In this fully revised and updated workbook, you’ll learn how to move past the trauma you’ve
experienced and manage symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, and flashbacks. Based on cognitive
behavioral therapy, this book is easy to use, offering you accessible evidence-based therapy.  eTr11

To borrow this e-book you will need a password. Email librarian@victimsa.org

Learn more about the VSS Resource Centre, and join here 

Newsletters

Victims' Voice

Get the latest Victims' Voice newsletter.

Previous editions: March 2016 December 2015  September 2015  June 2015  March 2015

Crime Victim Enews

Get the latest Crime Victim Enews

Subscribe to Crime Victim Enews.

Borrowers Club

Get the latest Borrowers Club newsletter.

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Volunteer News

In partnership with South Australia Police, we are piloting the First Response program in Western Adelaide between February and June 2016.  

First Response provides practical advice, information and emotional support to victims of property crime.

Our trained First Response volunteers provide emotional support and practical information about insurance claims, compensation, personal safety, and home security. This can be as simple as providing help with filling out forms, or making phone calls on behalf of victims to get broken doors and windows repaired.

Victims of property crime living in Port Adelaide Enfield, City of Charles Sturt, and City of West Torrens are eligible for First Response services.

Find out more about the First Response program and how you can get involved as a volunteer

Create Change

Advocacy Update: Supporting child victims of crime

MySafePlace 

Family and domestic abuse exposes children to a variety of vulnerabilities. It has profound effects on their education, future relationships, health, emotional wellbeing and engagement in community life.

VSS is establishing MySafePlace for children aged from five years who have experienced family and domestic abuse to address their fear of crime and to develop children's sense of security and agency from which they can begin to recover from trauma. At age five, most children are able to effectively communicate their thoughts and desires. This is important as children can participate in the decision-making process when designing their own MySafePlace. We will work with children to bring to life what they imagine their MySafePlace looks and feels like.

We need your help to raise funds to buy paint, toys, bedding and furniture to turn a child's MySafePlace dream into a reality. This is your opportunity to be a part of a community solution to helping children feel safer and recover from trauma faster.

If you have a trade or a business and want to donate in other ways, please contact Louise directly on 1800 VICTIM (1800 842846) to discuss other sponsorship opportunities.

Child Victims of Crime Discussion Paper

On 10 November 2015, VSS in partnership with Anglicare, hosted the ‘Improving Justice and Support for Child and Adolescent Victims of Crime’ Conference. This event involved a diverse group of almost 100 representatives from across the non-government and government sectors with an interest in supporting young victims of crime. Conference participants heard from experts who talked about the dearth of short and long-term support available for young victims of crime and considered and discussed what should be done to address the issues. DemocracyCo summarised the outcomes from the conference. Download a copy of the report. 

Participants proposed two key ideas to improve services for child victims of crime: a ‘One-Stop-Shop’ for young victims of crime to facilitate support and service provision; and a children's court advocate to work directly with young victims during a court case. These two options are the basis of our Services for Child Victims of Crime Discussion Paper

Thank you to those of you who made a submission in response to our Discussion Paper. 

We are currently collating the responses which will inform our advocacy plan. We will continue to raise awareness of this service gap and work in partnership with others to continue to advocate for better services for children. 

Client Survey of Child Victims of Crime

VSS wanted to know how many of our adult clients have children at home who have also been affected by the crime(s) that have resulted in the adults seeking support from VSS. We wanted to learn what the issues are that kids are dealing with, and the services used or sought to help kids affected by crime. So, between 14 December 2015 and 31 January 2016 we asked our clients what the issues were. This survey results we have collected will form the basis of a report outlining what parents want for their children, when they have been affected by crime. We thank all of our clients who participated in the data collection. If you or your children have any experiences you want to share with the VSS research team, please email us at info@victimsa.org.  

For more information about our Child Victims of Crime Advocacy Campaign, go to our Create Change page. 

VSS Submissions

Liquor Licensing Act 1997 (SA) Review Submission

The Attorney-General’s Department (SA) released a Liquor Licensing Discussion Paper in late 2015. One of the key topics for consideration relates to ‘a safer drinking culture’ and alcohol-related harms.  

On 29 January 2016, VSS made a submission to the Review of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997.

VSS supports the submission prepared by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE). We agree that prevention of alcohol harms should be the priority in undertaking this Review.

Our submission is available in our list of submissions.

FARE’s submission is available here

Revenge Porn Submission

On the 12 November 2015 the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee of the Australian Senate (the Committee) initiated an inquiry into the phenomenon colloquially referred to as 'revenge porn', which involves sharing private sexual images and recordings of a person without their consent, with the intention to cause that person harm.

VSS made a submission to the Inquiry on 12 January 2016. It is available in our list of submissions and can also be downloaded from the Parliament of Australia website, here.

In February we were invited by the Committee to present evidence at the public hearing on behalf of victims of revenge porn.  The Committee has heard our call for legislative reform and will recommend that the non-consensual sharing of intimate images be criminalised.

This is a huge win for victims. 

In its report, the Committee said, "The present situation is unacceptable: victims of non-consensual sharing of intimate images should not be further disempowered and damaged by an inability to pursue alleged perpetrators."

As you can see from the opening address we presented to the Committee, we couldn’t agree more. 

A copy of the report can be downloaded from the Parliament of Australia website

Opening address: Public Hearing of the Legal and Consitutional Affairs References Committee of the Australian Senate

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Good morning, Chair.

Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee on this very important issue. The Victim Support Service is a not-for-profit organisation primarily funded by the South Australian Attorney-General's Department. We provide expert support to adult victims of crime as the sole dedicated victim support service in South Australia. We deliver a range of services to victims, witnesses and their families, including information and counselling, advocacy, practical assistance and support for victims of family and domestic abuse.

We know that revenge porn is a problem in South Australia, but we just do not know how big a problem it is. We really need to collect better data to help determine the prevalence of the problem. What we do know from Victim Support Service's experience and from research is that revenge porn can have devastating and long-term consequences for victims. We know that the distribution of intimate images without consent has a detrimental impact on the victim's emotional, psychological, financial and social wellbeing. In some cases, the victim's family members are also affected. Often people assume that the sharing of intimate images happens between teenagers, but we are finding that revenge porn occurs within the context of family and domestic abuse. In the examples that Victim Support Service provided to the committee, it is clear that revenge porn is used as a tool of power and control. In one case, intimate images of a woman were shared on Facebook explicitly with the intention to punish her for ending the relationship. In a second example, revenge porn was used in an ongoing relationship to coerce and control the victim. In both cases, Victim Support Service provided the women with free counselling and information about the criminal justice system. We also provided support for the victims when they made the decision to report their experiences to the South Australia Police. In neither case were there legal ramifications for the offender. 

Victims are currently not protected under the law, and we think this is unacceptable. In South Australia there is criminal statutory law that may protect victims of revenge porn. We have offences in legislation that relate to the creation and distribution of revenge porn. We have protections in the form of intervention orders for people who have been the victims of revenge porn. To our knowledge and based on our experience, this law is not being used. 

If offenders continue to perpetrate the offence of revenge porn without punitive consequences, revenge porn will remain underreported and unreported. Police and the community must treat revenge porn seriously and protect the victims. It is equally important to recognise that legal and policy responses to revenge porn must keep pace with the speed of technological advancement and the wider uptake of information and communication technologies as legitimate forms of social interaction. The distribution or threat of distribution of intimate images is often a form of domestic abuse. It is explicitly perpetrated to cause emotional and psychological harm. Revenge porn is all about publicly shaming the victim. Victims of revenge porn are sexually exploited on at least two levels: in the first instance, by the perpetrator and, subsequently, by the consumers of revenge porn websites. In the absence of any Australian data, we must rely on British data, which shows us that victims of revenge porn are overwhelmingly female. 

It is common for victims of sexual offences and domestic abuse to be blamed or seen as culpable for what has happened to them. This is very true for victims of revenge porn. The shame and stigma experienced by victims is a significant barrier to reporting to police or seeking support. Our position on this issue is clear: victims of revenge porn are not responsible for the actions of the perpetrator. The community must be educated that this is a crime. Such education is needed to combat the myths associated with revenge porn and other forms of violence, particularly against women. Revenge porn is to be taken seriously and community attitudes have a big part to play in challenging victim blaming attitudes. 

The case studies in our submission to the committee highlight the devastating impact of revenge porn on victims. The impact of revenge porn on victims is far-reaching and should not be dismissed or underestimated. The traumatic impact of the distribution of intimate images may lead to victims experiencing self-harm, severe depression, low self-esteem and reputational damage. We believe the keys to combating and preventing revenge porn are: understanding the extent of the problem through national data collection; a swift and certain justice response; consistent messaging that revenge porn will not be tolerated; and early education for children in schools around respectful relationships. Thank you.

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Port Lincoln (Lower Eyre), Whyalla (Upper Eyre), Port Augusta (Far North), Port Pirie (Yorke & Mid North), Berri (Riverland), Murray Bridge (Murraylands), Mount Gambier (Limestone Coast)