Don’t tolerate family violence

Don’t tolerate family violence

East Gippsland has moved from holding the number one spot for family violence in the Gippsland region to third placing.
Crime dashboard statistics the Advertiser has seen, collated from 79 local government areas across Victoria, now places Wellington at the top of the list.
Wellington recorded 3283 family violence incidents until the end of December 2020, followed by Latrobe with 3245 and East Gippsland next with 3203.
The family violence incidents are rated per 100,000 population.
Queenscliff scored the lowest number of incidents – 507 – placing it in 79th position at the bottom of the local government ladder.
Statistics seen by the Advertiser across a 12-month period last year revealed that six in 10 family violence incidents occurred between current or former partners.
Not surprisingly, 87.5 per cent of those incidents were recorded as taking place at a residential location with the most frequently recorded type of abuse being verbal, followed by emotional.
Physical abuse ranked third.
Disturbingly, more than 29 per cent of incidents took place in front of children.
Detective Sergeant, Owen Smeal is the supervisor of East Gippsland’s Family Violence Investigation Unit, based in Bairnsdale.
He works with a team of four detectives who are trying to make an impact in reducing the incidence of family violence in the region.
“We worked really hard last year during lockdown by taking a proactive response because our concern was family violence would go unreported,” Detective Sergeant Smeal said.
“So we took the approach of getting out and engaging proactively with those we knew could be in a vulnerable situation.”
Post coronavirus, Detective Sergeant Smeal said his team continues to work on combating family violence throughout East Gippsland.
They have three strategic aims, which include, ensuring a victim’s safety, offender and offence management, and maintaining child safety.
The strategy appears to have worked.
“What we’ve seen in recent months is a reduction in repeat offences,” Detective Sergeant Smeal said.
In other words, the campaign has seen a reduction in seeing the same victim of violence. A smaller percentage are repeat victims.
Detective Sergeant Smeal says there has been an increase in charges being laid against offenders of family violence.
He says there has also been an increase in family violence reports where a child is involved.
“The offender is being punished,” Detective Sergeant Smeal says reassuringly.
“We are holding perpetrators of family violence to account and making them responsible for their actions.”
He says a big part of his team’s role “is managing risk and identifying where there is a risk.
“We’re going to always act in the best interests of the victim.”
Detective Sergeant Smeal says working collaboratively with other agencies has strengthened the fight against family violence and led to more prosecutions.
Working with other authorities, East Gippsland detectives are focused on:
-    Investigating more complex crimes around family violence;
-    Managing high risk situations;
-    Assisting frontline workers with their response to family violence.
Detective Sergeant Smeal concedes that East Gippsland has a “unique community make-up being semi-rural which brings its own challenges”.
He explains that victims of family violence may be reticent to report FV because of their isolation, the shame of having other people know and fearing reporting may lead to further abuse.
Detective Sergeant Smeal says reporting family violence is not “a one-off contact” for his team.
“Sharing information with other agencies ensures the best outcomes are achieved and victims can be confident of a holistic approach,” he said.
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