30 April, 2020
As we are retreat to the safety of our homes to combat the spread of COVID-19, some women are keenly aware that their home is not the safest place for them to be and others are discovering this for the first time.
Family and domestic violence (FDV) continues to be one of the biggest health issues for women and children in WA.
Family violence involves a range of behaviours that are intended to cause fear and exert control over an intimate partner or other family member. It doesn’t only refer to physical violence but also includes non-physical forms of violence such as psychological or emotional, financial, spiritual and legal violence.
Unfortunately, women living in rural, regional and remote areas already experience higher rates of family violence than those in metropolitan areas.
Hospital data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that people living in remote or very remote areas are a staggering 24 times more likely to be hospitalised for domestic violence than people in major cities.
Director from the WA Centre for Rural Health Professor Sandra Thompson says “This is a stressful time for everyone. Unfortunately, mandated public social distancing measures due to COVID-19 can increase family violence in the private space, through intensifying opportunities for surveillance and social isolation (preventing people from seeing family and friends) which are common coercive control tactics. This makes it even harder for victim-survivors to access the support that they need. It is important that people who are experiencing family violence know that support services continue to operate and there is help available.”
The Women’s Council of WA has information about how people that use family violence may use COVID-19 to further control their victims including: withholding necessities such as food, hand sanitiser or disinfectants; providing misinformation about the pandemic to frighten and control them; intensifying monitoring of phones and other devices; increasing criticism of parenting skills; and using the pandemic as an excuse to justify their use of violence.
Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk said in a recent media release “We know that people experiencing family and domestic violence are at increased risk when they are isolated from family and the community, and are unable to leave or put other protective measures in place”.
Recognising that some people are at increased risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, the WA Government is moving to bring into force important laws to protect victims of family and domestic violence by amending a number of laws including enabling restraining order applications to be lodged online.
The Federal Government has increased funding to FDV support services during COVID-19 including the National sexual assault and domestic family counselling service 1800Respect, and other community based services, in response to the increase in demand.
It is essential that people experiencing abuse know it is not their fault, and they are not alone. Support services are still available during the pandemic.
f you or someone you know needs help:
• 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732 and www.1800respect.org.au) - Sexual assault and family domestic violence counselling service.
• Lifeline - 13 11 14
• Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline – 1800 007 339
• Men’s Domestic Violence Helpline – 1800 000 599
• Local police - assistance and referral to local services.
• Call 000 if you are in immediate danger.