Support now available for rural families experiencing family violence

27 September 2012
It’s not known how many rural families experience violence, but for those who do, the Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) has appointed a part-time, dedicated Violence Intervention Programme coordinator.
Based in Taihape, Cindy Gibbs is working alongside WDHB, Whanganui Regional Primary Health Organisation and iwi health workers who identify rural victims of violence and refer them to appropriate agencies.
Ms Gibbs welcomes the fact the WDHB acknowledges rural residents experiencing family violence can feel isolated and vulnerable.
“The WDHB has understood for some time that services available in the city are not easily accessible to those living in the country,” Ms Gibbs says.
“Families living in isolated areas are particularly affected. It can be very difficult for a woman and her children to flee to a Woman’s Refuge which might be a couple of hours’ drive from their home. It might mean removing children from their school and struggling to find funds for petrol and basic necessities.
“These can be very real barriers for some rural families so my role is to make sure they can access appropriate responses and interventions just as easily and efficiently as if they were living in the city.”
A qualified social worker, Ms Gibbs has not only supported many families in crisis but she also brings considerable experience in the health and justice sectors to her new position. Her focus now, is to provide education resources and support to frontline staff working directly with families.
Ms Gibbs says she’s looking forward to working with a variety of organisations and agencies which, like the WDHB, view family violence as a serious health issue.
“Having WDHB director Maori health Gilbert Taurua recently appointed to the Whanganui Family Violence Intervention Network governance group is a good example of how the Whanganui community is taking a multi-agency approach to the problem.
 “And the work that Wanganui Hospital’s clinical staff are doing to establish whether female patients are experiencing, or are affected by, family violence whether it’s physical, sexual, psychological and/or emotional, is another example of how organisations are reaching out to those needing or wanting help.
“We know some women have completely opened up to hospital staff who they felt had given them ‘permission’ to speak up about what they’re experiencing. I hope to strengthen relationships between Wanganui Hospital and our rural community because we are all in this together. Helping to prevent family violence is something that all New Zealanders need to take very seriously.”