Whilst there has been a noticeable increase in the provision of information and support services offered to parents and children exposed to situations of family violence, support agencies are bracing themselves for a dramatic rise due to this current pandemic.
The rise in family violence due to the COVID-19 crisis is placing a strain on an already critically overstretched social support system. It is reported that some abusers are using COVID-19 as a psychological weapon.
People who are vulnerable are now more vulnerable than ever.
Liz Thomas, the chief executive of social services organisation WAYSS (Victoria) stated:
[They are] in a state of fright and a state of heightened anxiety and are having this new threat — that is frightening for us all — used against them as yet another form of emotional-physical abuse.
“This has added a whole new dimension we haven’t seen before.”
With widespread job losses and isolation, government support agencies throughout Australia are beginning to see this social tsunami the coronavirus has brought with it.
Many people will stay in violent relationships because they won’t know what else to do.
Those who were in a terrible situation before may find themselves in a worse situation.
Individuals who are already in a situation of violence combined with all of the all of the restrictions that are being placed on people’s movements, having their children at home, job redundancies, etc, the situation will now only be exacerbated.
Predictions of a rise in family violence are based on patterns that have emerged after previous natural disasters. Reports out of China indicated that incidents of family violence had tripled during the pandemic there.
The level and size of the crime that we’re going to experience is unclear, but it is inevitable.
What Can You Do?
If you are living in a relationship where you fear for your safety or the safety of your children, you can do something about it.
We are open and available to provide advice. At the time of writing this article the Family Court and the Magistrates Court are open and available to accept applications.
We hear many reasons offered up by victims of family violence for not leaving their particular situations. One of the most common is fear of financial loss. Many believe that to leave their home means losing everything they have, including the family home, their possessions and any joint assets they have acquired during the relationship.
Another common misconception is that breaking up the family will be too traumatic for the children. Whilst the immediate breakup will inevitably cause disruption, the long term affects to children left in situations where family violence is present is far worse.
There are ways to protect you from family violence, as well as securing an income stream or housing in the interim.
There are numerous Government and private organisations waiting to help that are listed at the end of this article.
The laws relating to the welfare of children are very clear and the courts take a very dim view of those who are the perpetrators of domestic violence in the home. Further to this you should be aware that if you are forced to leave the family home due to domestic violence, you do not forfeit your right to proceed with property settlement at a later date to resolve a division of property between you and your ex-spouse.
The worst thing you can do now is to do nothing.
The first step is talking to someone in strict confidence to discuss the options you have available to consider to promote the best possible outcome for you and your family.
You can contact us to discuss your options by either:
- Calling us on 9443 1111 for a 15-minute free telephone consult, or fixed fee consultation; or
- Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with details of your query, including your best contact number; or
- Fill out the enquiry form on our website.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732
- safe steps on 1800 015 188
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- ReachOut at reachout.com.au
ABC News Friday 27 Mar
Liz Day – WAYSS Victoria
Royal Commission into Family Violence