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Ipswich's domestic violence statistics make for ugly reading

DOMESTIC violence against women is on the rise in Ipswich.

Police are doing everything in their power to bring offenders before the courts and have made headway in educating people to come forward and report offences.

But statistics that compare the 2012/13 and 2013/14 years indicate that a section of Ipswich men are continuing to behave in a disgraceful manner.

The offence of breaching domestic violence protection orders has gone up from 633 to 808, a 28% increase.

Sexual offences have also increased.

They rose 28% from 209 to 268.

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Ipswich Women's Centre Against Domestic Violence manager Gabrielle Borggaard said the rise in breaches of DV protection orders "could have to do with more people coming forward", and conceded Ipswich was a growing region.

But Ms Borggaard pointed out there were many more perpetrators of domestic violence out there who had not breached those orders.

The victims of domestic violence are the ones who are put through the mill when an order is breached.

"It doesn't become a criminal offence until the order is breached," Ms Borggaard said.

"And with an order like that, the victim still has to police it.

"They still have to notify police if the perpetrator is violent towards them.

"In a threatening situation, and particularly in a life-threatening situation, that can be really difficult."

While the figures relating to DV protection order breaches do not in isolation show that violence against women is increasing, there is compelling evidence it is.

"We support four regional courts - Ipswich, Richlands, Toogoolawah and Gatton," Ms Borggaard said.

"We support women who are filing a domestic violence protection order...and in Ipswich alone we have between 60 and 90 orders going to court every week."

Ms Borggaard said that number was "definitely going up".

"When I started in the service six years ago it would have been between 30 to 50," she says.

Ipswich is fortunate to have Sergeant Toni Phelan, the Ipswich Police District's domestic and family violence co-ordinator, on the case.

Sgt Phelan reviews every domestic incident that occurs in the Ipswich region.

She conceded the number of reports of domestic violence to the police was "alarming", but said an increase in people coming forward to police was enabling officers to investigate and bring the matters to court.

"We are getting the message out to people about what domestic and family violence is and as a result people are reporting more instances to us," Sgt Phelan said.

"As a result the courts are issuing a lot more DV orders.

"There is an increase in the reporting of breaches, which I see as a positive thing.

"It enables us to enforce the orders that are issued by the courts."

Sgt Phelan works closely with a variety of stakeholders on strategies for reducing domestic violence and on how to report it.

Ms Borggaard made the point that many men were now speaking up against domestic violence against women.

"We have some men who are actively participating in campaigns and coming forward," she said.

"We do our Walk a Mile in Her Shoes march every May and we have men that walk with us.

"We have men on our management committee here at the service who are very passionate about speaking up about violence against women.

"But it would be fantastic to see more men step forward to say this is not OK."

As for the increase in sexual offences generally, Inspector Keith McDonald said many of them were "unfortunately historic".

"That is of concern from the perspective that there are still matters happening in the privacy of people's own homes where mature people are taking advantage of innocent young people, and that is an issue," he said.

"There are education and reporting strategies in place to make it easier for people, but you don't know when the next person is going to come to the front counter of a police station and say, 'I have been sexually molested by my uncle for the last 15 years'."

Insp McDonald said there had been a minor increase in sexual offences that occur when people consume large amounts of alcohol and lose control of their actions.

Topics:  domestic violence, ipswich women's centre against domestic violence


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