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Rise in family violence in Shepparton alarming

Crime statistics show a 14.5 per cent increase in incidents of family violence in Shepparton in the past year.

RIAHN SMITH June 12, 2014 4:15am

Shepparton police Sergeant and Divisional Family Violence Adviser Thelma Bull.

The number of family violence cases across north-east Victoria is alarming and increasing at a steady rate, a leading Shepparton police officer says.

Victoria Police crime statistics released last month reveal 661 incidents of family violence-related assaults in Shepparton during the 12 months to April this year.

This represents a 14.5 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, a trend reflected in previous releases.

Shepparton police Sergeant and Divisional Family Violence Adviser Thelma Bull said the statistics were real and frightening.

‘‘It’s a significant issue for our community and it has been for some time. The workload is steadily increasing and I don’t see any sign of that plateauing in the near future,’’ Sgt Bull said.

‘‘Every day, every shift, our members are attending family violence incidents and they can be from a verbal argument to threats and intimidation, through to a serious assault and contravention of a protection order.

‘‘And it’s not just assaults, there’s often property damage, threats, a whole range of offences that occur within the family violence context.’’

Figures from local family violence support agency Marian Community tell a similar story.

Nicole* is a co-ordinator at the VincentCare Victoria program and said the service had this year received an average of 38 new cases each month, up by almost a third since 2010.

‘‘Family violence is a pervasive, life-threatening crime that impacts on thousands of women and children with serious physical, psychological and economic effects,’’ Nicole said.

‘‘While it is not uncommon to have spikes in the need for services ... there is an upwards trend of women affected by family violence contacting our service and that is concerning.’’

Sgt Bull said the increased reporting of family violence could partially be attributed to a proactive policing approach, as well as a broadening of the definition of family violence to include non-intimate partners.

Specialist units have been operating across the state for several years as part of Victoria Police’s zero tolerance policy.

The units engage with people involved in family violence three or more times in a 12-month period.

Sgt Bull said the aim was to address recividism.

‘‘If there’s an offence committed, we will take action. And that can be with or without the consent of the affected family member,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s been recognised that victims of family violence quite often can’t make that decision about getting someone charged, so we’re here to take that role when needed.’’


*The News has not used Nicole’s surname to protect her identity.

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