Debbie Platz Chief Superintendent Queensland Police Photo Contributed / APN NewsDesk
Debbie Platz Chief Superintendent Queensland Police Photo Contributed / APN NewsDesk Contributed

Police see the small sad faces of family violence

IT'S the Christmas Day one of Queensland's top police officers will never forget.

Chief Superintendent Debbie Platz, now the police representative on the State Government's Domestic and Family Violence Taskforce inter-agency committee, was a younger officer then and she will always remember the children crying on a day they should have been beaming.

"Christmas Day tends to be where police go to a lot of domestic violence situations," she said.

"A lot of families are together, there's a lot of alcohol being consumed and a lot of tension towards the end of the day.

"I recall going to a domestic scene where two brothers had had an argument and they got into a fight - one had a blood nose and a black eye.

"It wasn't so much the fight - it was the impact it had on the children. They were all crying and there was a lot of screaming going on.

"It made me feel really sad because you always think of Christmas being a really happy day where Santa Claus comes and the children have presents and everybody's happy.

"That day has always stuck in my mind."

Over the years, Chief Supt Platz, 50, has built a stellar career, from walking the beat and being a child protection officer to prosecuting in court and overseeing the force's huge education and training program, but there has been a common theme throughout all those roles - domestic and family violence.

Last year, at a cost of more than $50 million, police officers across the state attended more than 66,000 calls for help from people suffering physical, psychological, sexual or emotional abuse.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics domestic violence research shows 4.7% of women experience physical violence and 1.6% are sexually assaulted.

About 37% of violence victims were attacked by a current or previous male partner and 34.4% by a male family member or friend.

Chief Supt Platz, a Sunshine Coast mother of three, is determined to reduce these statistics.

And she believes the solution to domestic violence sits squarely on the shoulders of the entire community, particularly men.

"We need to talk about it as a community and we need to make it known to everyone in the community that it is wrong and that it is not acceptable," Chief Supt Platz said.

"It's also important that some of the males in our community actually stand up and say it is wrong and that males should not be assaulting females.

"So having some male champions who will come out and speak, I think, is really critical." 

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Through the eyes of police

THEY see people at their worst.

Men beating their partners. Women struggling to survive in a domestic war zone steeped in violence, fear and emotional turmoil.

For many police and social workers, walking into family homes torn apart by violence and oppression is a daily fact of life.

Christine Morley, who spent many years working with domestic violence victims and now supports women's shelter staff, said the work could take its toll.

"Vicarious trauma is a real possibility for people who work in close contact with victims of violence," the Sunshine Coast resident and academic said.

"Having said that I can say that it was some of the best work of my career in some ways because I always felt very privileged to have an opportunity to work with people in crisis.

"I was always humbled by how amazing the women I often worked with were in terms of their courage, their resilience and their capacity to heal and to reclaim their sense of personal power and to make really different sorts of decisions to heal."

Northern NSW Region Superintendent Craig Rae agreed the psychological impact on police could be huge.

"I think police certainly see the worst kind of domestic violence," he said.

"We see the impact it has on mainly women victims - we also see the impact it has on families."

The NSW and Queensland police forces have protocols to reduce the psychological impact domestic violence has on their members.

"The NSW Police force has evolved over the last 10 or 20 years from a workplace health and safety perspective," Superintendent Craig Rae said.

"We've got supervisors and managers who provide leadership and support.

"We also have internal peer support officers who are trained to provide ongoing support, and we have a police chaplaincy model where clergy are in support of local area commands.

"And we have an employee assistance program which provides 24/7 support to all police and their families so they can access counsellors and psychologists."

Chief Superintendent Platz said her colleagues pushed personal feelings aside to ensure victims received the best support available.

"Initially when police respond you're thinking about the victims as opposed to the emotional impact on yourself - it's after the event that police will start to think about how it impacts on them," she said.

"Certainly if you go to an incident where there are severe injuries to women or children, that has a very high emotional impact.

"The service has a number of strategies which we use to try and assist officers who suffer from stress, ranging from a simple debriefs with their supervising officer right through to psychologists or social workers assists them to cope with whatever stress they're feeling."

- APN NEWSDESK



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