REPORTS of family and domestic violence usually increase during the festive season.
But the region's specialist domestic and family violence response service is bracing for even higher demand this year, given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Centre for Non-Violence chief executive Margaret Augerinos said there would be added pressures for families this year, like the heavy financial impact of the pandemic and gathering as a family for what might be the first time in many months.
"But it is important to recognise that while many families will be under pressure this festive season, violence is a choice, and we can all make a choice not to use violence against the people we love or care about," Ms Augerinos said.
She encouraged people to play a part in supporting women and children's safety by being mindful of how others were being treated, and not ignoring any warning signs.
"Violence against women is everybody's business," Ms Augerinos said.
"We all need to be calling out behaviours that are disrespectful towards women."
She said people could respond to concerning behaviours in a number of ways, from calling it out if it was safe to do so, to not laughing at inappropriate remarks.
Disapproval could take the form of walking away, questioning sexist remarks, backing up another person who was calling out the behaviour, changing the topic, and asking the person to stop.
Ms Augerinos said it was important to follow up with the woman the behaviour was being directed at.
Strategies to help could include listening without judgement, never excusing violence or abuse, and understanding that a woman might not leave a relationship for many reasons.
Helping could mean delivering groceries, keeping copies of private documents, or offering a safe place for a woman to go if needed.
Ms Augerinos said violence could take many forms, and environments where women were restricted or did not feel safe to make their own choices were just as dangerous as environments where there was physical abuse.
She highlighted the differences between disagreements in a relationship where partners were equal, and an abusive relationship.
"It is normal for partners to have disagreements," Ms Augerinos said.
"In a relationship where partners are equal, both can state their opinions and feel heard - in a safe environment.
"In an abusive relationship, one partner tries to control the other - and can use a number of tactics to do this.
"It might be physical violence, verbal abuse, restricting their freedom and movement, making demands or threats, or sexual abuse."
Front line services responding to violence in central Victoria, throughout the state and internationally reported significant increases in incidents during the pandemic.
More than one woman a week is known to have died by violence this year.
A 53rd woman's death was added to the register maintained by the Counting Dead Women Australia researchers of Destroy the Joint within 24-hours of this article's publication.
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, help is available:
- Safe Steps, Victoria's 24-hour family violence response hotline - 1800 015 188
- 1800 RESPECT, the 24-hour national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service - 1800 737 732
- No To Violence's Men's Referral Service, for men concerned about their use of violence - 1300 766 491
- The Centre Against Sexual Assault Central Victoria, available from 9am - 5pm on weekdays, on 5441 0430, and the Sexual Assault Crisis Line at all other times on 1800 806 292.
- The Orange Door in Loddon, available from 9am - 5pm weekdays - 1800 512 359
- The Centre for Non-Violence, for people who live in the Loddon region, on 1800 884 292.
In an emergency, phone 000.