Every day of the festive period 74 women across Australia reached out to rape and domestic violence support services.
Between December 21 and January 3, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia assisted 1043 individual clients across its three telephone services – a 32 per cent increase on the same period last year.
There was also a 22 per cent rise in the number of calls answered by its crisis counsellors.
Rape and Domestic Services Australia executive officer Karen Willis said: “The additional federal funding we have received this year has assisted us to increase the contacts we can respond. Unfortunately the number of clients also continues to increase.”
The service runs the NSW Rape Crisis Centre and 1800RESPECT – which both operate around the clock – as well as Sexual Assault Counselling Australia. Ms Willis confirmed many callers were women experiencing domestic violence inside the family home. Crisis counselling was also provided to female victims of rape and indecent assaults at end-of-year work functions, Christmas parties and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
“Increased community discussion surrounding sexual assault and domestic violence is definitely leading to more women coming forward,” Ms Willis said.
The Baird government unveiled a $60 million initiative last October targeting domestic violence. As well as perpetrators being forced to undergo behavioural change programs, six new police teams are being established to investigate and monitor the state’s most violent offenders as well as those who breach apprehended violence orders.
In addition to the specialist police squads, an extra 24 domestic violence liaison officers will soon start work at local area commands across the state.
The commitment followed the $100 million funding announcement by the Turnbull government in September, also to tackle domestic violence.
Two Australian women are reportedly killed by domestic violence each week. Christmas and New Year represents a time of fear for many families.
At Parramatta Bail Court on Boxing Day, at least 10 cases were heard that involved domestic violence and assault-related charges.
Last week, motivational speaker and former Hillsong preacher Pasquale “Pat” Mesiti denied allegations that he attacked his wife on New Year’s Eve.
Mesiti, 56, did not appear in Sydney’s Parramatta Local Court on Tuesday when the case came before a magistrate for the first time.
He has been charged with two domestic violence offences, common assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, which were allegedly committed against his wife Andrea, in Glenhaven, in Sydney’s north-west. The case returns to court next month.
A NSW police officer, meanwhile, will appear in Goulburn Local Court on Tuesday on multiple charges that relate to alleged domestic violence. Christopher Luke Evans, 29, who is a senior constable, was arrested on January 4 and charged with assault, intimidation, and use carriage service to menace or harass.