Harrowing tale of woman at risk after social media sparked friendship in Mid North

A young lawyer who grew up in the Mid North has told how she struck up a friendship on social media, but it later went wrong and she was stalked.

Georgina Axford, now a District Court Judge's Associate, was among speakers at the launch in Port Pirie of a research paper on young country women's perceptions of intimate partner violence.

She said that growing up in the country was "different - you have a sense you will never be alone, everyone knows each other".

But she said she found that after meeting someone on social media, "things can go pear-shaped".

She had "chatted" with a male friend for some time before dating for about three months.

The male had been able to track her location through social media applications and knew where she was on particular nights of the week.

She had decided to end the friendship, but he started contacting her and showing up at places she went. "It made me hesitant to go to sport and have drinks at the hotel," she said.

She had told him his behaviour was "unacceptable".

"Things can escalate quickly," she said.

She then told how a girlfriend had a lucky escape from a boyfriend who was found to be mentally unwell.

On one occasion, after trouble at his home, he had demanded the girlfriend get in his car and "you get in the car because you want to keep him happy", Ms Axford said.

Later, after driving some distance, he locked the car doors and seized her mobile phone.

When he stopped for petrol, she grabbed the phone and secretly rang a friend - Georgina Axford.

"In the end, the police caught up with the car and emergency services attended to the boy's health," she said.

Ms Axford said she also saw "horrendous" cases of domestic violence before the court.

"Women resort to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain," she said.

The launch of the paper by the University of SA for Uniting Country SA was attended by more than 50 at the Northern Festival Centre on Friday.

Catherine Mackenzie and Tanya Mackay prepared the report based on interviews with five country women aged 16 to 21 years old and five older women who had experienced domestic violence earlier in their lives.

Ms Mackenzie said the report had been compiled to help Uniting Country workers to support young women and prevent intimate partner violence.

She said experiencing intimate partner violence at a young age was linked with poor mental and physical health, lower educational achievement and alcohol and drug use.

"The most common means of abuse, particularly among young women, was through new technology, including social media and social networking apps - for example, the abuser demanding to know who the woman was messaging, what her conversations were about, blocking her Facebook or Snapchat friends or searching through her phone for evidence of wrongdoing," she said.

"Young women cannot be expected to avoid intimate partner violence on their own.

"There needs to be a whole-of-community approach that supports young people and demands country women are safe from intimate partner violence."

Ms Mackenzie said the report made a series of recommendations to Uniting Country.

The event was attended by Carolyn Power, who is Assistant Minister for Domestic Violence and Family Violence Prevention, and Independent Frome MP Geoff Brock.

The program ended with a performance of the song Beautiful by guitarist Daniel Burgess and his daughter Amy who began singing with her Dad at the age of two years old.

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