Domestic violence: StandbyU Foundation’s desperate plea to fund ‘lifesaving’ watch

A charity that developed new technology to help women and children experiencing domestic violence has made a desperate plea as their waitlist surges.

A smart watch designed to help victims of domestic violence stay safe has a wait list of more than 100, but no money to build or run the devices.

The StandbyU Foundation has developed secret and secure technology that can be programmed to a smart watch, where the click a button on the watch can activate an alert, allowing chosen support networks to listen in, find the victim and organise help for them.

The software can be programmed to watches or devices that have a SIM and has the function to make calls.

Mother-of-one Annabelle* received a StandbyU Shield for her teenage son after waiting about 2.5 months.

The turning point for the Queenslander was when her partner tried to run her over with a car so she packed her bags and fled with her son, leaving them homeless for about three weeks.

Under court order, the parents equally share custody of the boy – something Annabelle claimed has led to her child being used to manipulate her.

She said her son previously admitted to having suicidal thoughts when staying with his father “because it was the only way out” but he had to be there by law.

“My son would come home and say to me ‘Dad said if I don’t agree to get my haircut he won’t give me dinner’ and he’d often be locked in his room,” Annabelle said.

“One day last year he told his teacher he didn’t want to go home to his dad’s, (saying) ‘I was really scared last night because he threatened to kill me’.”

Now that her son has access to the StandbyU Shield, Annabelle said it’s given him a sense of security and knows if things turn for the worst he has “backup” and someone can listen in and contact the police if necessary.

“Both of us have been feeling out of control for years … but it’s given him a sense of safety.”

The StandbyU Foundation receives about 20 to 30 new inquiries each week, and there are currently about 125 women and children who have not yet been able to obtain one.

The Federal Government commissioned a 12-month trial of the product, but no significant money had been given to the charity, making it harder to fund the technology and help those in need with the waitlist growing.

The foundation received a grant from the Department of Social Services to trial the technology on 100 women, back in 2019.

All of the surveyed women reported their emotional wellbeing and mental health improved as a result of having the watch and 93 per cent said they felt it significantly increased their safety.

Despite the results, StandbyU charity founder Chris Boyle — who spoke at the National Summit on Women’s Safety earlier this week — said he had a proposal for Phase 2 of the project sitting with the Federal Government for the past 10 months but “not a single cent” had been invested.

He said the foundation had also been gifted three Westfield shop fronts in southeast Queensland but he couldn’t begin building or staffing them until there was more funding.

Mr Boyle said the proposal given to the Commonwealth asked for $6.4 million over three years to fund the walk-in shops as well as 1000 Shields.

“Police and the funded services are happy to send people to us but nobody’s happy to put their hand in their pocket to fund it,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services told NCA NewsWire the initial funding for the program was provided on a “one-off” basis as part of the Technology Trials program.

“These were one-off, time limited grants to help build the evidence base for programs which states and territories may wish to support in their local areas,” she said.

“To support this investment the Commonwealth has committed $260 million to states and territories over the next two years to invest in local frontline services.

“We encourage StandbyU to contact the Queensland Government in relation to ongoing funding.”

For more information on how to get a watch, contact StandbyU Foundation on 1800 069 010.

* Pseudonym used for safety.

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