A surge of family violence cases could see the city end the year in the worst possible way.
Through referrals from the police and community-based organisations, Wagga Family Support Services intervened in 32 incidences in the three days following Christmas.
Additionally, during the weekend before Christmas, another 19 cases were heard by the caseworkers.
“We met with 51 families affected by domestic violence in just five days,” said the service’s acting director Helen West.
“It’s terrible, but it always increases at this time of year. We certainly saw more this year than the last, and that’s just for those we’re told about, there’d probably be a lot we don’t hear about.”
Unlike previous years, this year’s Christmas and New Years has coincided with a particularly long heatwave, and Ms West believes that has contributed to the increase.
“I think the heat makes a big difference. It affects the brain and shortens tempers. People’s tolerance and patience drop when it gets really hot.”
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As domestic violence typically increases over this season every year, Ms West believes there is an inherent flaw in the way people are told they must celebrate.
“There’s a natural lull between Christmas and New Year’s, and when it’s as hot as it has been this year, emotions are running high,” said Ms West.
“It’s unreasonable to think that the same level of fun and excitement will be able to extend all the way from Christmas into the new year,” she said.
“There’s always a lull between Christmas and New Year’s, that’s when people get a little overboard.”
The heatwave is expected to reprise before New Year’s Day and to continue well into the graveyard of next week.
But Ms West hopes the weather’s return will not be accompanied by more violence.
“At this time of the year, families are under so much pressure,” said Ms West.
“There’s the expectation that everything’s going to be fun and fantastic [every] day, and when those expectations aren’t [fulfilled], you’re left with problems.
“The pressure combined with the heat, and then add alcohol and you’ve got a [potentially volatile] recipe.”
As the typical high period for late night outings in the city, Ms West says the onus is now on the community to be vigilant.
“If you see, hear, or suspect something, try to de-escalate the situation if it’s safe to do so,” she said.
“If it’s getting out of hand, call the police. Just don’t ever be a bystander.”