Domestic violence reports surge

Over the last year there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of domestic violence matters reported to the Young Police, according to Young’s domestic violence liaison officer’s (DVLO) records.

The rise in domestic violence matters heard in the Young Local Court earlier this month prompted Magistrate Peter Dare to dismay at the high figure.

“It’s an indication of the dysfunction in our community,” he said  

However, Young Crisis Accommodation Centre coordinator Gwen Gunning and the Cootamundra Local Area Command (LAC) DVLO, Senior Constable Rennai Kentwell, both put this down to a rise in the number of victims having the courage to make a report rather than an increase in actual abuse. 

“They know they have rights,” Mrs Gunning said.

“That there is support out there and they can tell their story and go from there.”

She said this included older people making reports who may have been suffering abuse for the last 20 years. 

Senior Constable Kentwell said police now had “zero tolerance” towards domestic violence and victims were no longer considered it bothering police to report abuse.

“The attitude police take is that every domestic is deemed as serious and recorded as such and treated as such,” she said.

However, she said according to NSW police statistics it took an average of 23 times before a victim went to the police.

Mrs Gunning said her service had received an increase in the number of domestic violence referrals from the Young Police over the Christmas/New Year period – a rise that is often seen in holiday periods.

She said domestic violence could happen to anyone of any age, cultural or socioeconomic background but there were signs victims or their friends and family could look out for, such as an increase in verbal abuse.

“The early warning signs will be control – control of money, control of them being able to contact friends and family,” she said.

She added verbal and mental abuse could be just as bad as physical abuse and that it’s not always easy to spot the signs.

“They can also be clever and if it’s physical abuse it can be done so no one can see the marks,” she said.

Senior Constable Kentwell said verbal abuse was often the precursor to other serious offences and that communities were shocked when situations quickly escalated.

“Ninety per cent of murders are domestic related,” she said. 

Senior Constable Kentwell said people should look for signs in the way their partners were treating them.

“I like to go by the motto, if someone is making you feel bad about yourself, then it’s not a very healthy relationship,” she said.

Although things had improved, Mrs Gunning said there was still more work to be done, with many victims not reporting due to shame, financial issues or fear of their partners.

 She said her service was now focusing on a new state-wide domestic violence strategy that intended to make victims safer, hold perpetrators accountable and prevent reoffending.

“We need to go into schools and teach what’s acceptable and what’s not, and it’s not just about physical abuse,” she said.

She said more could be done to see perpetrators rehabilitated, with many of those sent to anger management classes let off from completing them if they didn’t want to. 

One police strategy gaining success is the introduction of the ‘Yellow Card’ system, where instead of victims or perpetrators being handed the numbers of support services, the services now contacted them after they filled out a yellow consent form.

Senior Constable Kentwell said the introduction of the ‘Yellow Card’ system had seen a dramatic decrease in the number of repeat offenders, although the number of reporting had increased. 

According to her records, the number of repeat offenders had decreased by more than half from 2011 to 2012 across the Cootamundra LAC.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence you can contact the police (6382 8199), the Young Crisis Accommodation Centre (6382 4436, 6382 2033, 18125125) or the domestic violence hotline (1800 654 463).

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