abc.net: by Danny Morgan —
Family violence is at shockingly high levels in all areas of the community with police and support services struggling to cope with demand, Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence has heard.
Public hearings began today with a minute’s silence to acknowledge the many thousands of people who have suffered physical, emotional or financial abuse at the hands of a family member.
“This includes the women and men and boys and girls who have died as the result of family violence,” commissioner Marcia Neave said in her opening statement.
“We hope the commission will mark a moment in time when the whole community committed itself to overcoming this vile social ill.”
The commission heard one in six Australian women had been subjected to partner violence since the age of 15.
For men the ratio is one in 20.
In extreme cases the violence results in death.
The commission was told one study found each year in Australia there are on average 115 family violence-related deaths.
In Victoria in 2013 there were 44 deaths linked to family violence.
“Tens of thousands of people live with family violence every day,” Counsel assisting Mark Moshinsky QC said in his opening statement.
“With little or no change in the prevalence of family violence in recent years, family violence remains at shockingly high levels. Families are torn apart, lives ruined, children damaged.”
Mr Moshinsky said the evidence to the commission would show that children can be harmed even by low levels of violence – threats of harm and exposure to shouting matches between parents.
“We do not know what is a safe level of violence,” he said.
Rhonda Cumberland, the chief executive of service provider Good Shepherd, said the services for people affected by family violence could not keep up with demand.
In the past 10 years the number of family violence reports has increased by 136 per cent.
“I’m astonished, I have to say that the family violence service system still stands with that kind of pressure on it, with that kind of rapid change in such a short period of time,” Ms Cumberland said.
She told the commission Victoria Police had improved its handling of family violence matters, but in the 1980s and 90s, service providers saw them as “the enemy”.
“We had no trust in Victoria Police and women didn’t trust Victoria Police,” she said.
“There were more cases of women simply saying they were not believed and they were blamed and no one’s going to go and talk about your most intimate experience if you don’t trust that authority.
“I absolutely take my hat off to the response by Victoria Police [in the past decade] but at the same time I have to say it started off a very low base.”
Creating common risk assessment for violence ‘difficult’
The inquiry heard evidence about past practices and responses to violence within the home.
Assistant Commissioner Wendy Steendam from Victoria Police said prior to 2001, there was only two people working in the family violence area formulating policy and training for the force.
She said a code of practice for police investigation into family violence was developed during the 2000s and is now seen as a priority and supported by the highest of levels within Victoria Police.
The inquiry heard the family violence sector at the time thought police were not responding appropriately and there was “a long way to go” in dealing with the issue.
The commission is this afternoon hearing evidence for the first time from a person who has experienced family violence.
That person’s identity has been protected in the interests of her safety.
The public hearing will go for 20 days over the next month.
The commission is expected to hand down its findings in February next year.
Origional Post here: http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-13/royal-commision-into-family-violence-underway-in-melbourne/6614560