Quantum Support Services receives on average 244 referrals from Gippsland police per month.
This festive season it received 358 and almost half were during the two weeks between 19 December and New Year’s Day.
It’s a harrowing figure during a traditionally joyful time, and one that even shocked family violence specialists.
Quantum Support Services general manager of children, youth and family services Cindy Pullar said she knew the agency was busiest during the holiday period, but didn’t realise by how much.
“And I don’t believe that’s a true figure, I believe it’s much higher, but a lot of family violence still remains hidden,” Ms Pullar said.
Quantum, which assists women and children affected by family violence, received 66 police referrals from Latrobe, Wellington and Baw Baw shires in the week prior to Christmas alone.
Ten reports were received on Christmas Day, a time families should be opening Christmas presents and enjoying a festive lunch, and an additional 72 incidents were referred to the organisation between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve.
On 1 January, Quantum was alerted to a further 17 cases of family violence, bringing the two-week tally to 165.
Ms Pullar believes the increase is due to the added social and financial pressures placed on families during the holiday period.
Christmas advertising promoting the “perfect gift” and approaching school fees for the new year add to the strain on family breadwinners, she said, while free-flowing alcohol during the season also increased the risk of family violence.
“We know that data shows family violence (across the state) increases over the holiday period,” Ms Pullar said.
Quantum’s youth refuge, catering to people aged 16 to 24 affected by violence, is currently at capacity, while this Christmas period the service also experienced an increase in out-of-hours calls by women residing in its crisis accommodation.
Ms Pullar said the service’s resources were “stressed” and showed no sign of slowing down.
“But I really do believe we are just touching the surface of the issue,” she said.
“During this time of year particularly, a lot of it is hidden. We have the mum trying to hide it from her kids so they enjoy Christmas, while neighbours who may normally call the police are away on holiday.”
Ms Pullar said it was the community’s responsibility to speak up against family violence, no matter the time of year.
She said education also had to start early to promote gender equality and respect towards women, with power, control and gender inequality major contributors to family violence.
If you are in a life-threatening situation phone Triple Zero.
If you are experiencing family violence phone the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 737 732.
If you feel your behaviour may be violent towards your partner and would like to talk to someone, phone the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.