When Sarah Brittain gets home from work each day she immediately changes her clothes.
She sheds a layer and with it, all the trauma from her day.
As Emma House's intake and risk team leader, she gives her career all she's got and sometimes it needs more than she has.
Ms Brittain lives for the day she won't have a job. Because that would mean family violence would cease to exist.
Unfortunately, as the statistics show, that dream will not become a reality any time soon.
Every day, Ms Brittain listens to stories of controlling behaviours, physical, emotional and sexual abuse occurring behind closed doors.
"The abuse this one woman endured was horrific," Ms Brittain said in the same room she first heard the story.
"I sat across from her and remember thinking 'we have to do something' but I was quite unsure how we could keep her safe.
"Some of the conversations you have to have with high-risk clients is, 'Do you understand that the way this is going, he is going to kill you?'"
When Ms Brittain was in the early stages of her career as a case worker at Emma House, she met a woman she described as one of the most severely abused and high-risk clients.
Not that you would know by looking at her, she said. She was a young mother, from a high socio-economic background with no visible wounds. She was a well-educated woman living a seemingly happy life.
"She experienced quite significant physical assault from choking to the point of passing out and weapons like households objects were used to hit her only in places where no one would see unless unclothed," Ms Brittain said.
"Her partner used things like her phone as a bargaining chip; if she needed to do things like call the school to check on their kids or check on her mum he'd say 'you need to do A, B and C and then you're allowed to use the phone'. Generally 'A, B and C' were sexual acts.
"He would use her as a way to keep himself removed from criminal acts. There was one instance where she was the getaway driver for an assault done by his associates."
This woman had never experienced family violence before and only came to Emma House when another woman from mother's group mentioned the service.
"One day she just broke down," Ms Brittain said.
"I asked what's happening and she said there was something she needed to get off her chest.
"She said her partner was also physically assaulting their children."
The woman said her partner would whip their children behind the knees at night, and on the lower back, torso and other places their primary school uniforms would hide.
He also hurt their dog.
She said she couldn't wait for the day when she was no longer suffering too- Sarah Brittain
"One night he escalated," Ms Brittain said.
"He grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and dragged her to the backyard.
"Their kids were screaming and running after their mum.
"He beat her with the s-shaped crowbar you find in the back of your car while the kids are watching and then he turned on their dog. The dog didn't even make a sound.
"She broke down that Tuesday morning because she was relieved he'd stopped beating her and turned on the dog."
The following week, she said the woman's demeanour radically changed.
"The dog was dead," Ms Brittain said.
"She was relieved the dog was no longer suffering and she said she couldn't wait for the day when she was no longer suffering too."
That attack was a turning point for the woman, but it wasn't the last.
"Her partner had a motorbike, like a dirt bike and one day he put it up on blocks and he had the wheel spinning. He had her lie down so he could burn her back," Ms Brittain said.
"She showed me her back. I remember thinking 'that's not opportunistic, he planned that, he had it all ready and he premeditated it'.
"I thought 'what is this man capable of'?"
Ms Brittain said the woman was too afraid to go to the police.
"She carried a lot of shame," Ms Brittain said.
"She kept saying 'I don't know how I got here' and I think she really wrestled with that.
"It wasn't about the perpetrators' coercive control; it was about what she could have or should have done to prevent this.
"But there is nothing she could have or should have done. Violence is a choice."
Through Emma House, this woman was able to access the help she needed to move on with her life. She now lives with her children free from violence. She is a survivor.
"As far as I know, she still to this day has never reported anything because she has not felt it to be safe enough," Ms Brittain said.
"Due to the assaults she endured she now has an acquired brain injury.
"And he is still out there."
Not a numbers game
Emma House executive officer Ruth Isbel says the statistics of family violence fail to show the terrifying reality south-west women and children face.
"Death is the reality here," she said.
"That's the risk they live with and we work with on a daily basis.
"Family violence is a broader term referring not only to violence between intimate partners but also to violence between family members.
"Our work is absolutely serious because the consequence of us not doing well and the system not supporting women is very real and can end in women and children being killed or permanently injured by the men who claim to love them."
While the statistics reveal the reality of family violence, they don't show why police report finding a beaten woman beaten who refuses to give details or press charges - or why her phone vibrates up to 300 times a day with someone questioning her every move.
The numbers don't explain why local police referred 156 women to Emma House in June 2019 alone or why only 10 of those women felt safe enough to pursue further help through a case worker.
Emma House had 1873 new referrals last financial year, including 1347 from police, self-referrals (361) and 165 from other agencies across the region including mental health and community services and hospitals.
Less than a quarter of those women went on to seek support from Emma House.
"We know that due to the nature of domestic and family violence it takes women a number of times to leave, end the relationship or seek help," Ms Isbel said.
"When we get a referral we pick up the phone and make contact with the women so they know about our service.
"Even if they decline assistance at this point at least they know we exist, that we care and they have heard a friendly voice."
Emma House received 267 referrals in July, up 30 per cent from June.
"Overall, our referral numbers are increasing," Ms Isbel said.
"While this is very positive as it shows the rising awareness of domestic and family violence in the community and service system, staff workloads are increasing and if it continues at this rate demand may exceed what we can respond to in a timely manner.
"A worker's caseload is between 15-20 women and that doesn't account for their children. Probably 80-90 per cent of the women we see have children and most have at least two children.
"But we will see women anywhere, they don't have to come here. We have outreach workers in Portland, Hamilton, Terang and Camperdown. And we will always do our best in all situations."
Warrnambool police Detective Sergeant Jason Dance said since the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence, reporting and referral rates reflected the state's intolerance of family violence-related offending.
"We are absolutely seeing an increase in reporting rates and it's no longer just the victim making those reports," he said.
"We're seeing family members, work colleagues and neighbours reporting instances of family violence, whereas previously, what happened in the home used to only be that person's business.
"Now days, community expectations and standards have changed significantly. People aren't satisfied or aren't willing to turn a blind eye anymore."
Detective Sergeant Dance is one of four detectives in the Warrnambool police family violence investigation unit which started in October 2018.
We have also worked on a lot of significant cases where there wasn't any physical violence at all- Detective Sergeant Jason Dance
He said the unit investigated extreme, unreported and historic family violence incidents.
"We've had a number of successes from previously unreported family violence incidents. We have been able to spend the time and allocate the appropriate resources to victims, in order to prosecute offenders that ordinarily wouldn't have been prosecuted," he said.
"We have also worked on a lot of significant cases where there wasn't any physical violence at all.
"Family violence doesn't always present as the old case of having black eyes anymore. It's not just about physical assault, it can be financial control, psychological abuse and torment, serious cases of stalking, coercive and manipulative behaviour and emotional abuse. All of those things constitute family violence."
Earlier this month, an experienced family violence lead magistrate jailed a Warrnambool man for 15 months over the "worst example of coercive control" she had ever heard.
Warrnambool police Detective Senior Sergeant Shane Keogh said officers had this year responded to about 1800 family violence-related incidents, up 10 per cent from the year before.
"We've also had 70 arrests which comes off the back of our focus on recidivist offenders," he said.
"When an incident is reported, our team is getting out there and investigating it. The professionalism that these detectives are putting into these investigations is paramount to those numbers."
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
Emma House is a Warrnambool-based not-for-profit service and can be contacted through 1800 EMMADV (1800 366238) or visit emmahouse.org.au/
Safe Steps for women after hours service is available through 188 015 188.
Brophy Family and Youth Services can be contacted on 1300 BROPHY or 03 5561 8888.
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