Whittlesea CALD Communities Family Violence Research Report 2012 - Page 42

41 Some mainstream service providers also maintained links and networks with CALD specific services in order to draw on their expertise (for example, discussions at network meetings around particular issues specific to CALD clients or through secondary consultations with CALD specific services in relation to individual clients). Consultations with Community and Religious Leaders The Project Leader conducted one to one interviews with six recognised community leaders representing a number of religious groups and communities in Whittlesea. As may be expected, all of these religious and community leaders were male. These leaders were consulted due to the likelihood of them being a first point of contact for community or congregation members disclosing family violence and seeking assistance. They were drawn from a variety of backgrounds including Indian, Middle Eastern and African and they represented a number of religious denominations including Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Muslim and Sikh and one Sudanese community leader was also consulted whose leadership role is non-religious. The community and religious leaders were relatively experienced in their roles and all were senior members of their institutions. Within this group there was a broad range of skills and experience including one leader who had a Masters degree in family counselling and another who had previously worked in a community organisation. Consultations were conducted from a set list of pre-prepared questions (Refer to Appendix 3) that were intended to gauge whether community and religious leaders are confronted with family violence in their communities, how often this occurs, what assistance and information they are providing to victims and perpetrators of family violence and the level of knowledge and expertise that they have around family violence, legal rights and responsibilities and services. Incidence of Family Violence All community and religious leaders who participated in consultations had been approached by someone from within their community who had experienced family violence. Most often they were approached by the victim of family violence (and the victim was most often female) but it was not unusual to be approached by the perpetrator. Religious/community leaders explained this phenomenon as a result of the fact that such leaders are almost always male and men in the community feel comfortable talking to and seeking assistance from a male leader which may not be the case for women. It was observed by more than one religious leader that men were more confident seeking assistance and it was not unusual for men to represent themselves as the victim or a victim in the situation. It was more unusual for a community or religious leader to be approached by family or friends of the victim or perpetrator or other concerned bystanders. Community and religious leaders acknowledged that family violence was occurring in their communities and most said that they were regularly approached by people seeking assistance with family violence although one religious leader was adamant that family violence was only a ‘rare occurrence’ within his community because it was not condoned by religious teachings.