The sister of a New South Wales dentist murdered by her ex-boyfriend says there are not enough integrated and long-term services to help women in abusive relationships.
- Nithya Reddy is backing a campaign to establish Australia’s first domestic violence trauma recovery centre
- Her sister, Preethi Reddy, was murdered by ex-boyfriend Harsh Narde in March, 2019
- The recovery centre, proposed for the NSW Illawarra region, would provide free, ongoing services for women
Dr Preethi Reddy, 32, disappeared after attending a two-day professional conference in Sydney, in March 2019.
Police found her body inside a suitcase in the boot of her car, with multiple stab wounds, 48 hours after she had been reported missing.
“It was the worst moment of my life,” Nithya Reddy said.
“My Mum, I knew that her grief was the worst anybody could go through. Nobody should have to go through a moment like that.
“I didn’t suspect, we didn’t suspect the perpetrator.”
Final act of control
The 31-year-old said she had never liked her sister’s former partner, Tamworth dentist Harsh Narde, but did not think he was capable of murder.
“I knew that he had controlling tendencies in other ways — there’d be that coercively controlling behaviour — but it was never threatening, violent or aggressive,” Dr Reddy said.
“What I’m realising now is that he had never perpetrated physically violent acts towards her in the past because he knew that he would lose control of her that way.
“So his first act of physical violence had to be his final act of control.”
Narde was killed after his car collided with a truck on the New England Highway a day after Preethi Reddy’s body was discovered.
Police had interviewed Narde as part of the missing-persons investigation, and believe the head-on collision was deliberate.
Dr Reddy, a psychiatry trainee specialist, is now backing a campaign for Australia’s first domestic violence trauma recovery centre to be established in the New South Wales Illawarra region.
“A trauma centre would be fantastic, and the working model — in terms of having long-term treatment, long-term research — is vital,” she said.
“It would assist women to recognise the dangers, the signs, recognise when a perpetrator is being coercively controlling.
“It would help in reducing the number of women that are killed and reducing the epidemic of domestic violence in our country.”
Seeking public funds
The Reddy family has also donated funds, in Preethi’s name, to help get the project off the ground.
Sally Stevenson, AM, from the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre, is steering the campaign and said the facility would provide better support for victims of abuse or violence to identify troubling behaviours and receive long-term support.
“It would be a one-stop shop, a wraparound service, that will provide mental health support, strategies and programs as well as legal and financial support,” Ms Stevenson said.
“It’s a public health emergency and it requires a public health response and so we’re also asking for it to be incorporated into a public health system.”
A high-level working group has been formed to help build a case study for the centre’s creation.
“All the services that are directly impacted by domestic and family violence unequivocally support this concept,” Ms Stevenson said.
“It’s a … standalone model that, once we can demonstrate its effectiveness, can be rolled out statewide and Australia-wide.
“In terms of support from the Government, we’ve talked to a number of ministers who’ve been supportive of the concept and appreciate what is required, however we’re yet to see any funding.”
According to research conducted by the University of New South Wales, violence is the greatest health risk factor to women aged 18-44 years in Australia.
“This means that for women, experiencing violence is a greater health risk factor than say smoking, alcohol or obesity,” UNSW School of Public Health Research Fellow Patricia Cullen said.
She said more needed to be done to address the needs of women affected by domestic or family violence.
“It is surprising that there is currently no dedicated service,” Ms Cullen said.
“This DV trauma recovery centre proposal fills a gap in the system.
“Much of the focus is, quite rightly, on crisis intervention and early intervention, but there’s very little support or resources for women’s long-term recovery.”
Nithya Reddy said she was determined to ensure her sister’s death was not in vain.
“I don’t want her name to ever be forgotten because of who she is and everything she represents.”