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18 November 2020
BY DYLAN DE JONG
A family violence support co-ordinator is urging women and children to seek help as family violence rates increase in the Wimmera.
Victoria’s Crime Statistics Agency figures released early this month show family violence incidents in Horsham increased by 40 percent between April and June compared with the same period last year.
There were also increases in Northern Grampians, Ararat and Yarriambiack municipalities, while Hindmarsh and West Wimmera reports decreased.
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Police leaders said the figures were likely a result of increased awareness and confidence in authorities to report and seek help.
Sexual Assault and Family Violence Centre Wimmera co-ordinator Jo-Anne Bates said figures signalled more people were reporting to police and emergency services.
However, she said figures were only a glimpse into a ‘multi-layered’ issue.
“Not everyone reports to police. The numbers police might receive are quite different to the numbers we receive,” she said.
“We have noticed an increase in people coming forward and seeking support after the first COVID-19 lockdowns eased.
“Data also highlighted when children returned to school that not only were women making disclosures, but children were also speaking out.”
Ms Bates said the first and second waves of lockdowns across Victoria presented significant challenges for families already at risk.
“Having a preparator around 24-hours certainly would have increased the risk for them,” she said.
“And as people lost their jobs through this time, the threat of feeling like they might not have a home to live in, or food provided, or money to buy food, are other layers of that complexity.
“The public might just think family violence is about hitting someone – it’s more than that. Psychological and emotional abuse is an additional layer.”
Ms Bates encouraged those experiencing any form of violence to seek support from agencies, or in a crisis situation to call police.
“Those initial steps can be a scary and frightening thing. They might not want to come forward immediately, but we would encourage them to initiate a safety plan,” she said.
“We also encourage people to support those who they know are going through family violence.
“Believe them, don’t judge them or tell them what they have to do, but rather provide them with information in a safe manner when the perpetrator is not around.”
Horsham Police Inspector Paul Lloyd, who oversees a family violence investigation unit in the region, said third-party reporting helped police and support agencies respond to incidents faster.
“If someone sees something going on and it’s not right, they can report it – you can always call us anonymously,” he said. “Often the person involved in that relationship might not take the first step, so someone else taking that step for them might be the catalyst to pursue change.”
Mr Lloyd said increased reporting in the region was a sign the community had confidence in authorities and agencies.
“That’s been a steady trend for a while now – the reason it is up is because people have increased confidence in coming forward,” he said.
“People are starting to have confidence in the system now and the support agencies we interact with.
“Reaching out is often the hardest part. We just encourage those who are suffering or know someone who is suffering family violence to reach out and report it.”
• For 24-7 family violence help and support, people can call Safe Steps on 1800 015 188 or webchat safesteps.org.au/chat from Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm. In an emergency, call triple zero.
The entire November 18, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!