CENTRAL Victorian services believe increases in community awareness and emergency screening have supported more family violence victim-survivors to seek help.
Bendigo's Annie North chief executive Julie Oberin says emergency services screened situations at family violence incidents more than previously.
"Hospitals, police and front-line workers have been screening for strangulation for quite a while as part of assessing risk," she said.
"Whereas in the past, women usually would only be asked if there was bruising on their neck or if they had a raspy voice.
"We also get more referrals from hospitals than in the past, which is good, so sometimes that can look like more women are physically injured.
"We also know along with the increased screening questions for risk assessment, women are more likely to report violence and/or seek help than previously.
"Hospitals have been improving their response to family violence for quite a while now and we definitely see more women referred from hospital."
Centre for Non-Violence programs and services executive manager Yvette Jaczina said the COVID-19 pandemic had "intensified" home lives which had repercussions on family violence situations.
"During the past year, we have seen women who would not necessarily have recognised they were living in a relationship of coercive control, now reporting escalating violence," she said.
"Some women who had experienced controlling behaviours were experiencing physical violence for the first time.
"We also saw an increase in the number of high-risk cases being referred to the Risk Assessment Management Panel, which brings together key local services to review and consider the safety of women and children who are at the highest risk in the region."
A spokesperson for the family violence response centre Safe Steps said movements such as #metoo, public campaigns and media reporting had brought family violence into the open.
"As community awareness around family violence increases, so too does the likelihood that women and children experiencing family violence will seek support," the spokesperson said.
"That is certainly the case at Safe Steps; we have seen both an increase in calls to our service and an increase in their complexity.
"An increase in reporting can be a good thing. It means women and children know there are supports available when they need them and they feel more able to speak out."
Ms Jaczina reinforced that gender inequality was still a contributing factor to family violence.
"Those increased referrals reflect the number of men who have disregard for the law - who will ignore whatever systems are put into place, including intervention orders, because of their sense of entitlement and belief their family is a possession," she said.
"Violence is a choice - and we can all make a choice not to use violence against the people we love or care about."
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.
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