The dark side of sports final weekend

The biggest weekend on Australia’s sporting calendar is likely to be a fearful time for vulnerable women and children, with incidents of domestic violence expected to spike with the AFL and NRL grand finals.

Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education's chief executive Michael Thorn said increased consumption of alcohol at parties celebrating season finales would certainly result in an uptick in domestic assaults, not all of them reported to police.

''Alcohol is a drug, it increases people's risk-taking behaviours and aggression and generally reduces inhibitions,'' he said. ''We shouldn't be surprised that arguments can escalate into pushing and shoving with someone getting whacked, and that's usually the woman.''

Victoria Police is bracing for a 20 per cent surge in family violence incidents after Saturday's AFL finale while La Trobe University’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, found domestic assaults increased by more than 40 per cent in NSW on the nights of State of Origin games.

Consumption of alcohol implicated in spike in domestic violence cases around Grand Final time.

Consumption of alcohol implicated in spike in domestic violence cases around Grand Final time.

The June 2018 report found an increase of 40.7 per cent in domestic assaults, 71.8 per cent in non-domestic assaults and 55.2 per cent in total assaults for State of Origin nights
compared with other Wednesday nights.

The study suggests the significant spikes in assaults on State of Origin nights are likely to reflect increases in party going and alcohol consumption and suggests there is some benefit in shifting the focus of major sporting events away from alcohol.

But the inherent aggression involved in sports like rugby league may mean violence increases regardless, it said.

Mr Thorn said the research indicated that when ''these big games are on'' and where there were previous patterns of violence, some families had to personally remove themselves out of harm's way.

Massive cultural change was necessary so that violence and heavy drinking was not regarded as acceptable behaviour, Mr Thorn said, urging state and federal governments to tackle the way alcohol is marketed, its ready availability and its relative cheapness.

NSW Police said it was unable to anecdotally comment on statistics or trends linking domestic violence to a specific day or time.

“Police respond to all domestic and family violence incidents when reported. If members of the community have concerns about domestic-violence, we strongly urge them to come forward and contact police.''

David Gallant and Professor Cathy Humphreys, of the University of Melbourne, called for the public to call out abuse where it occurred.

''Taking action may involve helping others to move to safety, or diverting and distracting from the triggers for violence where that is possible,'' they wrote in an article penned for the university’s website, Pursuit. ''The idea that we need to be more than a spectator is a timely reminder going into this weekend.

''Any one of us may recognise the build-up to a violent or abusive incident, or we might actually witness abusive incidents directed against women and children while attending events to watch either grand final.

''It is up to us to call out these behaviours and not simply pass them off as part of the experience of watching sport. We can all contribute to the prevention of violence against women and children and ensure that we all get to enjoy the game.''

Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

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