Trigger warning: This post deals with domestic violence and child abuse, and may be triggering for some readers.
We all remember hearing the tragic news in February this year: 11-year-old Luke Batty was killed at the hands of his father, in front of horrified onlookers after a cricket training session in Tyabb, Victoria.
But what many of us haven’t heard about is the strange trend that’s emerged in the wake of the shocking news: the sharp increase in reported child abuse cases in Victoria since the killing.
The rise in reported child abuse has risen from 73,000 reports of child abuse in the state last year to a predicted 81,000 last year, according to Victoria’s Department of Human Services.
Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge has also acknowledged more people were reporting child abuse in Victoria, the ABC reports.
But what’s not clear is what the rise in child abuse reports means — and what support services are needed to adequately address the extra reports.
Why the rise in reported child abuse?
University of Melbourne social work professor and former Alfred Felton Chair of child and family welfare Cathy Humphreys told Mamamia the increase in reports of child abuse following Luke Batty’s death is not altogether surprising.
“(A)fter a very prominent child death — and a tragic child death — there’s unusually an increase in referral’s to child protection because people’s fears about children that they know are raised,” she said.
She said the increase in reports doesn’t necessarily mean there is more child abuse actually happening than before, but that the Luke Batty’s death may have led to threats of domestic violence being taken more seriously.
“We can assume, possibly, that because there’s been a rise in referrals to child protection after the Batty case, maybe some of them are about domestic violence and probably, when men are threatening to kill children or women, those threats are starting to be taken very seriously,” Professor Humphreys said.
“Often women and children are experiencing quite a lot of threats to kill, and a lot of women think ‘I’m not going to be intimidated by threats.’ But there’s probably now many, many more women concerned about whether threats (will) translate into reality,” she said.