Thursday, December 05, 2013
Family violence cases have skyrocketed for Colac and district police, with officers responding to more than three cases a day on average.

Colac Otway Shire had 1297 reports of family violence last financial year.

The figure is almost a 300-per-cent increase on the 424 family violence incidents reported to Colac district police in the 2008-2009 financial year.

But police and family violence experts say the skyrocketing incident reports are a sign that victims are becoming more confident to speak up.

Barwon and South West children’s resource program co-ordinator Karen Glennen, who is based at Colac Area Health, said Colac Otway Shire’s figures reflected a state-wide trend in increased family violence reporting.

Mrs Glennen said campaigning in recent years to empower family violence victims to report crimes meant police and support services were better-positioned to help.

“There has definitely been a huge campaign against family violence so I think women are more willing now to report,” she said.

“They believe they will get a response and that the community awareness is now prominent,” Mrs Glennen said.

“We don’t know whether that same level of family violence has always been there and people just didn’t know where to get support.

“Police and the courts have a different approach.”

Mrs Glennen said children were present in a third of family violence incidents in the Colac Otway Shire and she said a quarter of children in the region, and Australia, were exposed to family violence at some stage in their lives.

“Now we have a whole new body of evidence around the impact of the trauma on brain development in children,” she said.

Mrs Glennen said the “huge majority” of Colac and district family violence incidents were men against women and children.

Article courtesy of The Colac Herald

She said that while physical and sexual abuse cases were prevalent in the courts, people often failed to see underlying types of family violence including, emotional, financial and social abuse.

Colac police family violence liaison officer Sergeant Rebecca Constable said police weren’t alarmed by the increased reports because they reflected a “firmer, stronger stance”.

“Things that maybe in the past were just a verbal dispute, we are now putting in a family violence report – we are now getting a clearer picture of what’s happening and we’re taking it so seriously,” Sgt Constable said.

“If we can act when it is a small incident, we can prevent much worse situations from arising,” she said.

“Yes we are busy at the moment but I think we are going to see a reduction very shortly because we are doing the hard yards now.”