5 October 2012: ‘This plan correctly places equal weight on preventing violence from happening, holding perpetrators to account, and supporting women and children who experience violence’, WHAV Convenor Dr Robyn Gregory said.
‘The whole-of-government commitment outlined in the plan, coupled with shared community responsibility, is essential for achieving the vision for women and children to live free from violence in Victoria.’
Victoria Police crime statistics released on 3 September showed a 23 per cent increase in the rate of family violence incident reports since the previous year and a 45 per cent increase in the number of charges laid.
The second edition of the Victoria Police Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence was launched in December 2010. This renewed commitment to improving police responses to family violence is partly responsible for the increase in demand. More calls to police may mean the messages are getting through: violence against women and children is unacceptable and your call will be taken seriously.
However, the magnitude of the increase has a direct impact on Women’s Health West’s capacity to respond. Crisis referrals to WHW increased by 26 per cent from the previous year. This is a combination of increased police referrals and women seeking services directly. Such a dramatic increase was difficult to manage and forced us to redirect funds away from case management to our intake service. This shift of resources toward a crisis approach impacts directly on our ability to assist women and children to navigate the complex legal and other service systems that provide security and aid healing and recovery.
As a result, WHW welcomed the recent Victorian Government announcement of $16 million over four years to respond to the increased demand for family violence services. This will alleviate some of the immediate pressure.
The funding includes $9.25 million for an additional 1,200 support packages for women and children per year over the next four years. Women’s Health West is one of five metropolitan and eight rural family violence outreach services facing similar exponential increases in demand. Across Victoria, family violence incidents rose by 10,000 last year. Domestic Violence Victoria, the peak body for family violence services in Victoria, has described the funding as a ‘down payment’ and is clear that future funding commitments are required to respond to continual increases in demand.
Victoria Police defines recidivism as ‘events where police have recorded family violence against individuals or in locations on three occasions or more within the preceding twelve-month period’. As a result, three or more reports referring to a particular victim, perpetrator or location are described as recidivism.
WHW undertook a small project to explore the role of women’s services in responding to recidivism. Overseas research highlights the need to hold men accountable for their violence rather than focusing on removing victims from the violent situation. It may be easier to remove a victim than confront a perpetrator, but this approach means that victims bear the responsibility for the violence. WHW requires a minimum of one full time worker to work directly with women and collaboratively with police and men’s programs.
Melton police recently introduced a family violence unit and its role will be to respond to recidivism. We expect other police family violence units across the region to follow their lead.