Walking to remember

Charlotte Varcoe

“IF it was not for Trudi and Four Reasons Why I would have probably ended up on the streets as well, I had left the house with everything I had and I had to restart,” Mount Gambier/Berrin domestic violence survivor Katherine van den Hoogen said.

Domestic or family violence is a leading driver of homelessness for women in Australia and Ms van den Hoogen came face to face with that when she left her partner.

This led to her finding support from Four Reasons Why and now, for the second time, Ms van den Hoogan is working to raise funds for the Mount Gambier charity.

Last year, Ms van den Hoogen and a work colleague embarked on a 24km walk from Badenoch’s Deli to Port MacDonnell to raise both funds and awareness for those fleeing domestic violence, and this year, she has partnered once again with Trudi Shelton of Four Reasons Why to open the Our Walk to Remember event to the broader public.

“I want to get the word out there and make people aware it is not just the adults that suffer through domestic violence,” Ms van den Hoogen said.

“It is also the kids, and people need to break that cycle, if you stay in a relationship because of the kids and you are putting up with abuse, you are setting them up for life because they are going to find the same relationship and it is a vicious cycle.”

On average, one woman is killed every nine days by a current or former partner, but even with these harrowing statistics Ms van den Hoogen said domestic violence was not talked about enough.

“A lot of people do not speak up about these issues and I know in my case I was too scared to speak up about it at the time,” Ms van den Hoogen said.

“I was lucky, I had a neighbour who heard everything and she ended up getting myself and my son out.”

She said if it were not for her neighbour, she believed she would have “been another statistic”.

Speaking on the event, Ms Shelton said they wanted to open it up to the public after a lot of interest.

“We had a lot of interest from the public who wanted to join in on the walk and so what we have decided to do this year is change the format and make it family friendly and bring it to the railway lands,” Ms Shelton said.

“People will be able to choose their distance of one, three, five, 10 or 20 kilometres and that is because we want kids and families to join in.”

She said entry for the walk would be a gold coin donation to make it as accessible and affordable as possible.

“We want everybody to turn out and show their support for Katherine and victims of domestic violence while also raising awareness about it and most importantly, remembering all the lives that we have lost to it,” Ms Shelton said.

“We are pretty excited about the new format and incorporating the community into this year.”

All funds raised will go back to Four Reasons Why and support those fleeing domestic violence.

“This funding could be the difference between having a school bag or uniform, clothing or bedding,” Ms Shelton said.

“It could mean having food in the fridge or pantry or even a bed as Four Reasons Why helps make the children and parents more comfortable and feel supported while they are rebuilding their lives again and not have to suffer as much if they did not have the help from us and other support services.”

She said she hoped members of the community would come along on the day in groups and walk together with food and coffee vans, face painting, music, information booths and more available on the day.

“Last year was about empowering Katherine and helping her regain her power back but this year we want to share that with everybody,” Ms Shelton said.

The event will be held on August 31 from 8am at the Mount Gambier Railway Lands.

1800RESPECT is the national domestic, family, and sexual violence counselling, information and support service. If you or someone you know is experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, domestic, family or sexual violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, chat online via www.1800RESPECT.org.au, or text 0458 737 732.