WITH Christmas less than a month away, abused women across Echuca are bracing for one of the most dangerous times of the year.
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The festive season may be a happy occasion for many, but it is a horrendous time for those experiencing family violence.
Police are preparing for a surge in emergency calls and protection orders, while the court system is expected to be inundated with domestic violence matters.
Echuca lawyer Larna Tarrant is already snowed under with cases.
“Christmas often brings with it an increase in cases which involve family violence,” she said.
And Ms Tarrant expects it will get even busier in the new year.
“It appears that many people ‘stick it out’ for one more Christmas for the sake of the children,” Ms Tarrant said.
“Of course, the reality is that avoiding the children being exposed to any form of family violence should always be the preferred option, although we absolutely understand that this is not always possible or safe for victims of family violence and their children.”
About 80 per cent of Ms Tarrant's caseload is family law and much of the remaining 20 per cent relates to family law associated intervention orders and criminal law matters.
“The vast majority of these involve allegations of family violence,” she said.
“While we unfortunately see a usually high percentage of cases which involve family violence, COVID-19 lockdowns seem to have caused a significant spike in both instances and severity of family violence.”
The Centre for Non-Violence is seeing the same issues, as demand for its services continues to rise across Campaspe Shire.
‘‘We have seen increased risk and complexity during this period,’’ programs and services executive manager Yvette Jaczina said.
‘‘We see women impacted by financial abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse and all other types of family violence.’’
Ms Jaczina said COVID-19 had certainly contributed to violence against women.
‘‘This has been a very challenging time for women experiencing family violence as they have been asked to stay at home which is not safe for them,’’ she said.
‘‘We have heard that men using family violence have used the pandemic to further isolate women and children.
“We have also heard that women who are victims are left to manage the demands in a household, including child care and home schooling, without support from their partners.
‘‘This highlights issues of gender inequality and the impact of a belief in traditional gender roles.’’
In the 12 months to June 2020, family violence incidents jumped by 3.3 per cent to 728 across Campaspe.
While Echuca’s uniform police are responding to at least two domestic violence call-outs a day, the Bendigo Family Violence Investigation Unit is investigating 25 (out of 146) high-risk perpetrators across Campaspe.
‘‘These are cases where we involve ourselves with the affected family members and respondents and external services to lessen the risk of family violence and reduce recidivism as opposed to crime investigation,’’ Detective Sergeant Guy Menhennitt said.
‘‘We have two active cases in the Campaspe area. One a serious assault and another a stalking matter.’’
Since the start of COVID-19 restrictions, Victoria Police has been running Operation Ribbon to ensure people deemed high risk are engaging with police and external agencies.
‘‘There are about 3000 high-risk respondents in Victoria managed by the FVIUs across the state,” Det Sgt Menhennitt said.
“On average 30 respondents are arrested, charged and remanded each week due to Operation Ribbon and a further 10 per average are charged and bailed.”
The Riverine Herald is supporting the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which runs until December 10.
Over the next two weeks, we will be speaking to survivors, police on the frontline and support services in an effort to end violence against women.
● Anyone experiencing domestic violence can call the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service on 180 015 188, National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line on 1800 737 732 and the Centre for Non-Violence in Bendigo on 1800 884 038.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au
In an emergency, call 000.
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