Gayle Tourish has seen the many red flags of domestic violence.

From poor mental health to the silencing effect of social stigma, the warning signs are there – often hidden behind the brave front women present for the sake of their children.

Their courage and decision-making in the face of fear, coercion and control is a constant inspiration for Gayle, the new manager of Centacare’s Murray Mallee & Adelaide Hills Domestic Violence Service.

Gayle brings 15 years of experience in community services to the role, most recently in mental health rehabilitation support, court diversion and drug and alcohol services.

“In every sector I’ve worked in, domestic violence has always been there,’’ says Gayle.

“I think that’s why I’m so passionate about this sector; I’ve seen the impact that violence has on women and children from many different angles, but also the victim blaming that goes with that.’’

Gayle is currently completing a PhD at the University of South Australia exploring women’s lived experiences of domestic violence, and the impact of victim-blaming and stigma, on women’s help-seeking behaviour.

“Society still questions why she won’t leave, while holding men and fathers to a much lower level of accountability. That’s something we need to change, but it will take time. The reality is that it’s extremely difficult for women to leave domestic violence due to the financial and social control that’s a part of the abuse.

“The women I’ve met over the years are some of the strongest and most resilient people I know. When you think about what they have to live and cope with every day, and the way they go on for their children; they show incredible resilience.’’

Based at Murray Bridge, the Murray Mallee & Adelaide Hills Domestic Violence Service supported 159 families in 2017/18, with two FTE case managers working across 28,000km2 and a population of 16,708.

Since taking up the position in May, Gayle says she has been impressed by the local community’s commitment to domestic violence prevention and awareness.

She hopes to build sector collaboration while working closely with Centacare’s other specialist domestic violence services in Mount Gambier and the Riverland to empower women’s disclosure, planning and help-seeking decisions, and address geographical risk factors, such as social isolation and lack of anonymity in small towns.