Almost one in 10 Australian women in a relationship have experienced domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis, with two-thirds saying the attacks started or became worse during the pandemic.
A survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology also reveals more than half of women who had experienced physical or sexual violence before the COVID-19 crisis said the violence had become more frequent or severe since the start of the pandemic.
The Morrison government will on Monday announce a $3 million package to provide more counselling and support services for women and their children who have experienced family violence.
The AIC research shows 4.6 per cent of all women – and 8.8 per cent of women in a relationship – experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former cohabiting partner between February and May.
For 33 per cent of these women, it was the first time they had experienced physical or sexual violence in their relationship.
The survey of 15,000 Australian women in May provides the most detailed information in the world about the prevalence and nature of domestic violence experienced by women during the pandemic.
Previously, police data from Victoria and NSW has shown no major increase in reports of domestic violence during COVID-19, but E-Safety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has said abusers may be trapping their victims at home and limiting their access to phones or computers.
Support services have also reported an increase in both male and female victims seeking help after domestic violence
One in three women who experienced domestic violence or coercive control said that, on at least one occasion, they wanted to seek advice or support but could not because of safety reasons.
AIC deputy director Rick Brown said the new survey’s results were alarming.
“The women we surveyed have experienced very high rates of physical, sexual and emotional abuse during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, and many have been unable to seek help,” he said.
Under the Morrison government’s new package, more than $3 million will be delivered to 23 service providers across every state and territory, with 93 locations nationwide. According to government figures, about 6000 people use these services and the extra funding could support 2000 more women and children.
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said there was a need to ensure services had the capacity to deal with the changing and complex nature of the global pandemic.
“Sadly, we know that times of crisis can increase the incidence of family, domestic and sexual violence, which is why our government has increased by nearly 50 per cent annual funding in the wake of COVID-19,” Senator Ruston said.
“No matter the crisis, there’s still no place for domestic violence or abuse. Our priority is ensuring that when people who are experiencing family and domestic violence reach out for support, they are able to access it as quickly as possible.”
In May the Morrison government launched a parliamentary inquiry into domestic violence, which will include an investigation into the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. This came after the government in March unveiled a $150 million domestic violence emergency response package to boost front-line and national support services over the period of the pandemic.
As of Monday, Australians on lower incomes will also receive a $750 income support payment. The payment – which follows a previous $750 payment that was provided from March – will be made to about 5 million social security, veteran and other income support recipients.
13th July 2020