Saturday 28th May was the day when Maris Depers said goodbye to his 25 meters long dreadlocks!

Number of dreadlocks: 28
Longest: 124cm
Combined length: 25 metres 25 centimetres
Weight: 900grams
Maris’ campaign to ease the dread

An encounter with a young woman who’d shaved her hair off so her partner could no longer keep hold of her by it will forever stay with Wollongong psychologist Maris Depers.

Maris, a drug and alcohol counsellor is now getting rid of his one-metre-long dreadlocks to raise funds for women trying to escape domestic and family violence.

A White Ribbon Ambassador, Mr Depers has always fought for equality and safety for women – but having a little daughter has really made it hit home.

‘’The statistics about violence against women are just shocking,’’ he said.

‘’In Australia we lose one woman a week to domestic violence. One in three women over the age of 15 have experienced an act of physical violence. That’s just unacceptable.

‘’I’ve always been passionate about this issue, and now I’m even more driven as I want my two-year-old daughter Dahlia to grow up in a world where women aren’t as vulnerable as that.’’

Cutting edge: Maris Depers is getting rid of his dreadlocks to help vulnerable women trying to flee domestic violence

Mr Depers’ online fundraiser Ease the Dread will go to SAHSSI, an Illawarra Shoalhaven crisis accommodation service for women.

According to SAHSSI CEO Kathy Colyer, around half of the women who seek emergency housing assistance in the region are victims of domestic violence.

In the last three months in the Illawarra alone, more than 100 women had sought refuge from domestic and family violence.

‘’Any donations we receive go directly to our clients,’’ Ms Colyer said. ‘’They help us offer crisis accommodation, transitional housing and outreach support to vulnerable women and children.

‘’It also helps us provide items such as appliances, linen and toiletries to women who may have walked out with just the clothes on their backs.’’

Mr Depers deals with many such women through his work.

‘’Unfortunately I have met many vulnerable women facing homelessness after fleeing abusive relationships and family violence,’’ he said.

‘’The one that has always stood out was the young woman who came in one day with a shaved head, who’d felt that was the only way she could keep out of her partner’s grasp, the only way she could escape.

‘’I know through my work how hard it is to get crisis accommodation for women like these, and the need for more funding in this area.’’

The final cut will come on May 28, and will be bittersweet for the 35-year-old.

‘’I wanted dreadlocks since I was about 12, and my mother let me get them when I was 15 as a birthday present,’’ he said.

‘’Collectively they are over 25 metres long, and they’ve been a pretty big feature of my life. It’s a massive step.’’

‘’This is something the whole community has to take ownership of in order to make the changes that will help women have access to equal opportunities and rights – and the biggest part of that is being able to have safe relationships.’’