The festive season is a time of celebration and unity for many. However, for Victorian families experiencing violence at home, it’s a period of heightened anxiety and distress.
Family violence can be defined as a pattern of behaviour by perpetrators to exercise power and control over a current or former intimate partner or family member. It’s important to acknowledge there are many behaviours that constitute family violence – abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological. In addition, perpetrators often exert other subtle behaviours, such as seeking to cause fear, be economically exploitative or coercive.
On average, one woman is murdered every week (Australian Institute of Criminology, 2021) and family violence incidents are happening at alarming rates across Australia. Incidents are expected to increase at Christmas time as December and January record the most incidents of family violence each year on average. (Crime Statistics Victoria, 2022)
Family violence is a pervasive issue affecting a diverse group of Australians. It inflicts wounds that last long past the physical, and leaves victim survivors and their families in a state of profound vulnerability.
Children are victims in their own right
Children remain the unrecognised victims of family violence. In Victoria, a child is present at more than 35% of all family violence incidents. (Crime Statistics Victoria, 2022). The evidence demonstrates that when there is a child or infant (including in-utero) involved, regardless of whether violence is directed at them, they are significantly and adversely impacted in the long term. In fact, family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020).
Violence affects children and young people in several ways, including in their:
- development and ability to meet milestones
- sense of security and attachment in their relationships
- behavioural functioning and emotional regulation
- ability to engage in their education
This is why children and young people must be considered victims in their own right. Whether they experience violence directly or witness violence, the ensuing trauma can affect their wellbeing for years to come.
Call for Urgent Support to Prevent Family Violence
Amidst this challenging landscape, Berry Street provides essential support to victim survivors of family violence. We advocate for equal rights, opportunities and protection for all genders.
Through our services operating via The Orange Door, as well as programs like Mother Infant Village and Take Two’s Restoring Childhood, our approach is grounded in empowering survivors, and recognising their inherent strength and resilience.
In 2016, the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence made 227 recommendations that the Victorian government has committed to implementing. In the following years, there has been increased investment into making family violence services more accessible. But more investment is needed to provide ongoing support for victim survivors, particularly in case management and affordable housing.
Berry Street is working to break the cycle of family violence. In doing so, we are calling for:
- More investment in ongoing support for victim survivors of violence, including affordable housing options.
- An increase in services targeted at infants, children, and young people, to help them recover from the trauma they've experienced.
As Christmas approaches, the need for family violence services becomes even more urgent. We all hold a collective responsibility to learn to spot the signs of violence, raise awareness by talking to family and friends and supporting organisations who provide critical services, like Berry Street.
You can learn more about our family violence services here.
Australian Institute of Criminology. (2021, April 6.). Homicide in Australia 2018–19. AIC Publications. https://www.aic.gov.au/publications/sr/sr34
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020, December 11). Client groups. Homelessness Services: SHS Annual Report 2019–20. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-2019-20/contents/client-groups
Crime Statistics Victoria. (2022, July 22.). Family Violence Data Dashboard. Crime Statistics Victoria. https://www.crimestatistics.vic.gov.au/family-violence-data-portal/family-violence-data-dashboard/victoria-police