The region's police are making an "ongoing effort" to ensure the correct reporting of child witnesses to family violence to ensure the incidents are correctly responded to.
A Crime Statistics Agency report about Victoria Police data, released this week, revealed more than 500 children witnessed family violence incidents in Ballarat in 2018-19.
Per 100,000 population, 516 children witnessed incidents that year, with Ballarat listed towards the bottom of a list of top 20 local government areas in Victoria where child witnesses were recorded.
The number of incidents was 1.8 times higher in regional and remote areas than in major cities.
The research, titled Child Witnesses of Family Violence: An Examination of Victoria Police Family Violence Data, was released by the agency on Wednesday and highlighted that police are increasingly recording reports of children witnessing or being exposed to family violence across the state.
Ballarat has consistently had many more incidents of child witnesses reported per 100,000 population than Greater Bendigo and Greater Geelong since 2014-15.
Between July 1, 2018 and June, 30, 2019 most of the child witnesses (293) recorded in Ballarat were under the age of four, followed by those under the age of nine (253). This is largely consistent with the other regional areas.
In the three areas, the incidents witnessed were mostly between current partners (close to 40 per cent for each), followed by former partners and then other relationships.
The age of the victim-survivors in the incidents witnessed by children in Ballarat ranged from zero to nine years old (six) to older than 60 (eight).
Though the majority, 438, were aged between 20 and 44 and the vast majority were female.
There were similar statistics for the other areas.
Meanwhile, the primary aggressors recorded in Ballarat were also a wide range of ages - from between 0 and 14 (20) to 60 and older (six).
Though most of the aggressors were males aged between 15 and 44, contributing to 420 of the reports.
The number of family violence incidents witnessed by a child increased along with the disadvantage.
Based on the Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage (IRSAD), a ranking published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), more than half of the family violence incidents witnessed by a child in Ballarat occurred in the most disadvantaged areas (52.2 per cent).
While family violence incidents may include multiple types of abuse, more than 70 per cent included verbal abuse. The second highest abuse-type witnessed in Ballarat was emotional (45.8 per cent), followed by physical abuse, threats, economic and social abuse.
Though incidents may include multiple types of risk factors, for primary aggressors in Ballarat, risk factors included controlling and jealous behaviour (35.4 per cent), alcohol use (34.2 per cent), drug use (31.5 per cent), mental illness and depression (33.3 per cent), a history of violence (19.1 per cent) and being unemployed or truancy (16.3 per cent).
For victim-survivors, the biggest risk factor was mental illness or depression (20 per cent), followed by alcohol and drug use.
The Central Highlands Family Violence Investigation Unit's Detective Senior Sergeant Tony Coxall said the division had "made an ongoing effort to ensure correct recording of children on reports".
"Whilst we are regional, our population base and rates of incidents is consistent with metro Melbourne".
He acknowledged it had previously been an area that was at times overlooked but it had since been corrected.
He noted that many changes in processes had occurred since then.
"We now triage every report by an investigator ensuring correct responses and recording around children".
- Need help? Contact 24/7 services 1800 Respect or Safe Steps 1800 015 188 or visit The Orange Door Ballarat on weekdays between 9 and 5pm or by calling 1800 219 819
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