EVERY six minutes, on average, Victorian police officers must visit a family home to deal with violence.
Former Police Commissioner Graham Ashton says his officers see firsthand the very real consequences suffered by families who are under strain. That, in part, has prompted the force to take steps to ensure its own officers are supported to be present and happy parents.
Mr Ashton believes all organisations, including the police force itself, can play a role in affecting social change by making improvements within their own workplace culture.
And change is certainly needed throughout the community. Statistics show almost 10 women a day in Australia are hospitalised for assault injuries perpetrated by a spouse or domestic partner. Worse still, at least one woman a week is killed by her partner or former partner.
For those who survive, the effects of the violence last well after bruises fade and bones heal. Research shows that children who witness family violence consistently suffer from low self-esteem as well as an increased likelihood of developing addiction problems and aggressive behaviour themselves.
“We have a lot of police who deal with families,” Mr Ashton reflects.
“For example, we would go to a family violence incident about every six minutes in our community. A lot involves children as victims of that family violence.
“We see the impact of parenting that isn’t focused. We know that adult behaviours, and behaviours of late teens, are so impacted by that first six years of childhood.
“A lot of our adult behaviours and even our outlook on life are impacted by that initial six years of someone’s life.
“So, to have parents in a good space, to have them happy at work, happy at home, working as a team around raising that child, it’s not just an issue for the parent it’s such an important and critical issue for the child.”
Mr Ashton says that the force is placing a strong focus on understanding family relationships and giving leadership to its members on the issue.
Preventing family violence will be a focus for millions around the world in coming weeks. November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women; marking the start of the 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an annual international campaign which calls for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. The campaign draws attention to the cause and pressures governments, businesses and communities to do more to prevent attacks on women and girls.
Disturbingly, Victorian police responded to 78,000 family violence incidents between 2015 and 2016. That was 10 per cent more incidents than the previous year. In the year ending June 2020, the number of family incidents was 88,000 (Crime Statistics Agency, 2020). Of course, this is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg as history shows that many cases of family violence go unreported.
It should be said, too, that the increase in reports of family violence in recent years could also be attributed to the “Rosie effect”.
Rosie Batty has been at the forefront in the crusade against family violence ever since her son Luke was murdered by his father in 2014.
The 11-year-old’s brutal death at cricket practice shocked the nation. Soon after he was killed, Ms Batty addressed the media saying: “If anything comes out of this, I want it to be a lesson to everybody that family violence happens to everybody no matter how nice your house is, no matter how intelligent you are, it happens to anyone and everyone.”
Ms Batty used her tragedy to shine a light on family violence. She started a conversation about how to prevent violence in the home. It is a conversation not just for the police. Or for the victims. Or the doctors, nurses and ambulance officers who must help deal with the aftermath.
According to Commissioner Ashton and Ms Batty, this a discussion that needs to be had by all.
The lockdown measures introduced around the world this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the existing pandemic of violence against women and girls. This year’s global theme in response to the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is: “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” The UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign is calling for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID-19 crisis, focus on prevention, and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls.
For more information on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women click here.
For more information on the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence and to learn what you can do to play an active role in creating a violence-free world for women and girls click here.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 000. If you need help and advice call 1800Respect on 1800 737 732, Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.