A Warrnambool step-father alleged threatening a seven-year-old boy with a knife has highlighted what police fear is the under reporting of family violence during the coronavirus pandemic.
Police described as "disturbing" the incident alleged to have occurred last week, which was reported by the young boy to a teacher and then passed on to members of the Warrnambool police sex offences and child abuse investigation team.
It's also alleged the boy was also kicked to the backside and a 26-year-old man was arrested on Thursday and charged with threatening to inflict serious injury and unlawful assault.
Warrnambool Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Asenjo, commanding officer of the Warrnambool-based south-west family violence unit, said that during the coronavirus pandemic there had actually been a decrease in reports of family violence to police.
But, he said there were concerns that there were incidents which had not been reported while victims were in isolation with perpetrators.
"That's the concern, that there hasn't been a drop in incidents, just a drop in the reporting of those incidents," he said.
"We are expecting to see an increase in reports as the COVID-19 restrictions are eased and life returns to a bit of normality with people returning to work and kids soon heading back to school.
"Those change of circumstances may allow victims and their support people far greater opportunities to contact police and service providers."
Detective Senior Sergeant Asenjo said that in planning for the expected increase in family violence during the pandemic Operation Ribbon had been launched statewide.
He said that in recent weeks police had been proactively contacting known family violence victims to check on their well being.
"We've been trying do that in ways that allow victims to speak freely while also engaging with perpetrators to see if they require support," he said.
"As part of Operation Ribbon a number of offences have been detected, charges laid and alleged perpetrators have been remanded in custody.
"We encourage any victim or support person to contact police and support services as soon as possible.
"We are here waiting, well trained and ready to hold perpetrators to account," he said.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call triple-0.
- Emma House in Warrnambool can be contacted through 1800 EMMADV (1800 366238) or visit emmahouse.org.au/
- Safe Steps for women after hours service is available through 188 015 188.
- Brophy Family and Youth Services can be contacted on 1300 BROPHY or 03 5561 8888.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.