Believe women that talk about safety concerns
The Women's Cottage has been supporting local vulnerable women and children in the Hawkesbury for 40 years.
It offers confidential support and direct assistance to women on the phone or in person around issues of safety, financial hardship and all forms of emotional distress.
Service manager Maria Losurdo said local women needed support now more than ever.
"Families in the Hawkesbury have been going through hard times for a long time," she said. "Long term impacts from years of drought, catastrophic bushfires, flooding and now COVID-19 has taken a significant toll.
"And for many families the traumatic impacts of the recent bushfires and flooding feel like they have been forgotten as COVID has taken over.
"In some cases, this increased family stress, financial and employment worry and isolation has caused a significant increase in arguments and sometimes in domestic violence and safety issues at home." Figures from around the world have demonstrated a dramatic increase in the rates of domestic and family violence since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
This has been true here in Australia also. Official figures for NSW point to an increase of more than 10 per cent, which is thought to be conservative as it only includes the rate of women seeking assistance. And is known to be higher in regional and isolated areas.
"It can be hard for women to know what to do when things start to spiral out of control," Ms Losurdo said.
"For many women it may be the first time they have experienced these types of issues which can make it hard to understand what is happening or how to get help.
"And in many situations, it is hard for women to reach out for help because they do not have confidential space to themselves at home to make those types of calls, even if they knew who to call."
The Women's Cottage encourages family, friends and neighbours to play an important role in supporting someone they are concerned about.
"Believe women that talk about safety concerns and let women know you are concerned about them," Ms Losurdo said. "Let them make phone calls from your own house or phone if that is needed. And let them know how services like The Women's Cottage can help."
Details: 4578 4190 or contact 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) 24 hours a day.