Data released in September, compiled by the Crime Statistics Agency (CSA), shows a spike in family violence incidents and family violence order breaches over the past 12 months.
Drawing on data collected by Victorian Police, the CSA reported family related incidents increased by 6.7% since last year to a record high of 88,214 incidents. Meanwhile, the rate of family incidents increased by 5% to 1,315.4 incidents per 100,000 Victorians.
Children were recorded present at 32,535 of these incidents, which is another record high. The largest number of incidents were reported in December 2019, January 2020 and March 2020.
The report also found breaches of family violence orders increased 9.7% to 48,071 offences.
What has contributed to the spike?
According to CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, Tania Farha, the increase in reports over the last 12 months can be attributed to three very different causes. One of these is Victoria Police’s commitment to make it easier for victim survivors to access support, as per reforms recommended by the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
“An increase in reports to police over the previous 12 months may be the result of ongoing efforts by Victoria Police to break down barriers to victim survivors seeking help from police,” Ms Farha explained.
Given emergencies are known to increase the frequency and severity of family violence, the spike may also be credited to the two key crises which have arisen over the past 12 months: the catastrophic bushfires which burned across the state during Summer, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis which has persisted since March 2020.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner, Rick Nugent, said the stay-at-home restrictions had contributed to the increase, which included notable rises in first-time victims and perpetrators of family violence.
It’s also possible that media coverage of high-profile family violence homicides, such as the murder of Hannah Clarke and her children in February 2020, played a role in the high number of reports seen this year.
“For some [victim survivors] it makes them more frightened to seek help, but for others it increases their sense of urgency for themselves and their children and so they reach out for assistance,” explained Ms Farha.
What can we anticipate moving forward?
While this data provides insight into the number of incidents reported to police, it does not capture the full extent of the prevalence, frequency and impact of family violence in our communities.
As Victoria continues to gradually ease restrictions, services are anticipating a spike in demand. The need to ensure these services are adequately resourced to respond remains as important as ever.
“Even during strict restrictions and lockdown, you can leave home to escape family violence. We must continue to amplify this message under the current restrictions and throughout the recovery period,” urged Ms Farha.
“Specialist family violence services must be adequately resourced to respond.”
To check out the latest Victorian crime data, visit the Crime Statistics Agency website.