The rise in family violence incidents over the past 12 months is disappointing, but not unexpected, according to some of Ballarat's assisting services.
Figured released on Thursday by the Crime Statistics Agency (CSA) show that Ballarat's family violence incidents rose by 10.9 per cent over the past 12 months.
The latest figures include the months of April, June and July this year, where COVID-19 forced more people to remain at home.
Of the victims, 1471 family members affected by family violence were women, while 487 were men. The most common age range for both victims and offenders came between those aged 25-34.
While Ballarat police declined to comment on the rise, Ballarat Child and Family Services chief executive Wendy Stugess said her organisation has noticed a number of spikes in family violence during the pandemic.
"COVID-19 has driven spikes in family violence reports over the past six months," she said.
"There have been times where reporting has dropped off and other's where it has spiked significantly."
Ms Stugess posited victims of family violence may have felt trapped by their perpetrators because of the COVID-19 restrictions.
"What we know is that Australia wide, women and children are often finding themselves in 'pressure-cooker situations', where they are often isolated with perpetrators of violence," she continued.
"During this time when people can't go out and seek respite from usual avenues like school, work or in seeing friends, people are stuck in an unsafe environment.
"Financial issues linked to COVID may also be contributing, where families who have lost money may see an escalation in family violence."
A similar situation was experienced by the Central Highlands Integrated Family Violence Committee chair Libby Jewson, who said cases they have examined during this period have been especially complex.
"These statistics reflect our experience in the sector," she said.
"We've noticed that cases have had an increased complexity over the past six months. We have a regional response and have done a lot of collaborative work to prepare for and address the anticipated demands of family violence assistance once COVID-restrictions eased."
Now that COVID-19 restrictions have eased within regional Victoria, Ms Jewson is imploring people to seek help if they are a victim of family violence.
"We're really encouraging people to seek help... the rate of services being used have dropped dramatically despite the rise in police reports, which we believe is directly linked to the lack of freedom some people felt during the lockdown period," she continued.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Regional Operations Rick Nugent said in a press conference on Thursday morning increases in family violence were a concern for police across the state during the COVID-19 lockdown.
"We were concerned with some of these restrictions that there would be increased violence within the home," he said.
"Operation Ribbon was established to check in with high risk cases across the state.
"We were able to charge a significant number of people breaching intervention orders. We saw more first-time reporting. We saw increased incidents involving children and parents, sometimes with children as victims and sometimes as perpetrators.
"It is a constant focus of Victoria police and other agencies to hold perpetrators responsible."
- Berry Street Western, 5331 3558 (in-crisis and after-hours support); or, WRISC Family Violence Support, 5333 3666.
- Support for perpetrators, men and adolescents using violence, calls Child and Family Services: Ballarat 5337 3333; Ararat, 5352 2910; Daylesford, 5348 8200; Bacchus Marsh, 5367 9900.
- National counselling service: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). State, Safe Steps, 1800 015 188.
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