Growing reports of family violence in central Victoria are putting greater pressure on the services that help victims.
Crime Statistics Agency figures show that last year, the rate of family incidents in Greater Bendigo was 1666.3 incidents per 100,000 people, up from 1450.3 the year before.
Last year almost 2000 family incidents were reported to police in Greater Bendigo - an increase of 17 per cent on 2018.
Chief executive officer of women's refuge Annie North, Julie Oberin, said it was hard to determine whether more family violence was being inflicted or more people were reporting it.
"The increased community awareness about this over the last few years could contribute to both," Ms Oberin said.
"With increased community awareness about the prevalence and nature of family violence, more people could realise that what they were experiencing was in fact family violence and that could result in increased help seeking."
In the first seven months of this financial year, Annie North's Loddon Family Violence After Hours Response had made as many call-outs and hotel accommodation purchases as it had the entire previous year.
Centre for Non-Violence strategic projects senior manager Robyn Trainor said the service had similarly seen an increase in demand across its regional offices.
"As we improve community understandings and improve system responses, we will see increased prevalence and community understanding that family violence is a gendered issue," Ms Trainor said.
"People are becoming more aware of the different forms of family violence and abuse, that it is not just physical violence, and as we see unacceptability increase for violent supportive attitudes, beliefs and behaviours we will see an increase in referrals and people seeking support."
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Ms Trainor said reforms that increased collaboration between agencies in the sector had also resulted in more referrals to CNV and specialist family violence services.
The increasing reports are putting greater demand on the services that support victims and survivors of family violence.
Ms Oberin said the current pandemic would add more demand because there would be a need for more support for those affected by family violence as it compounded their trauma.
Ms Trainor said services needed adequate funding and resources to develop their workforce capacity and ability to work with clients, from prevention to response and early intervention.
"It is important that victim/survivors (predominantly women and their children) have access to immediate support when they first make contact with the service system, with ongoing specialist support to reduce long-term impact and support their recovery," she said.
"We have increased our individual and group programs for men and provide men's behaviour change and case management for men using violence and abuse in the family. "
All municipalities across central Victoria saw rates of family incidents reported to police rise between 2018 and 2019, with the exception of Buloke and Loddon shires.
Central Goldfields has the highest rate of family violence incidents, with more than 3000 reported to police per 100,000 population.
Increased help seeking can place those suffering family violence in a more dangerous position, as the perpetrator will often escalate their abuse or coercive control.
"Women should contact a specialist family violence service to discuss what they should do so a safety plan is put in place," Ms Oberin said.
In central Victoria, the Centre for Non-Violence can be reached on 5430 3000.
The Men's Referral Service provides counselling to men who carry out family violence, on 1300 766 491.
La Trobe University students who experience family violence or know someone who is, can contact the Speak Up service on 9479 8988.
In an emergency, call 000.