Family Violence and COVID-19

Alarmingly family violence escalates in Australia and the world as Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts our day-to-day lives.

At Resolve Family Lawyers and Mediators we offer online family law advice and consulting services whilst being as ever committed in supporting family violence victims with our extensive experience.

In the last few weeks of isolation there has been an acceleration of reported incidences of family violence right across the world.

Family violence workers are referring to this rise as a second pandemic being faced by families and children, with victims often being trapped at home with the perpetrator in what has been referred to as a ‘hostage’ like situation.

In Argentina, 9 women have already been killed by their intimate partners since the isolation restrictions ensued. While people across the world are worried about social distancing, sanitising and remaining at home, remaining at home for some can be equally dangerous and the indirect victims of COVID-19 are getting somewhat overlooked amidst the hundreds of direct victims losing their fight against the virus daily.

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In China, family violence advocates have indicated that reported incidences of family violence for the month of February 2020 have tripled in comparison to 2019, whereas France has seen an increase of 30% in reported cases.

Research into other natural disasters globally has consistently shown that during times of disaster there is a corresponding increase in the rate of reported instances of family violence from anywhere between 30% to 100%.

During Hurricane Katrina there was a 98% increase in reports of family violence and similarly in the Christchurch earthquakes there was a 50% increase. Surprisingly, research indicated that many of the cases reported during these times of crisis were from people who had never experience family violence previously.

Sadly, Australia is not immune from these statistics, with similar increases in the rate of reported family violence occurring following the Black Saturday bush fires in Victoria.

Why does Family Violence increase during times of disaster?

While many people assume that the increase in family violence is simple due to the stress associated with the particular disaster, extensive research in this area indicates that one of the main reasons behind the increase is the assumption by both men and women of conventional gender roles, whereby the man must protect and be the decision maker for his family, and the woman is the nurturer or caregiver.

This polarisation of gender roles has created an environment where men feel the need to control and repress their “unmanly” emotions and don’t reach out for mental and emotional support. Conversely, women more often assume a caring role which is often housebound reducing women’s practical and financial autonomy and leaving them in a vulnerable position if they do need to leave a violent relationship.

During times of natural disaster and crisis research also indicates that society has a tendency to dismiss or excuse incidences of family violence as “people are just stressed” minimising the actions of perpetrators. With the horrifying statistics of family violence and domestic homicide in Australia and globally during what are conceivably “normal times” front line family violence workers are concerned that family violence will occur more than ever with stringent efforts to isolate families at home being forecast to continue for potentially months. Notwithstanding this, family violence is often viewed throughout society as not as serious as other violent crimes.

Recently famous boxer Billy Joel Saumders published an online tutorial on how to “punch women in isolation” which was a video where he demonstrated for “dad’s, husbands, if you have a girlfriend etc. how to hit her if you were stuck with a female partner who was annoying you”. While Mr Saumders later referred to this as a “joke” it is somewhat indicative of the attitude of many in society who do not comprehend the very real fear and serious threat that women, children and some men are experiencing behind closed doors.

It is therefore more important than ever that women, men and children affected by family violence are aware of measures which they can take to protect themselves and their families.

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About Resolve Conflict Family & Mediators

At Resolve Conflict our lawyers are highly experienced in supporting victim survivors to navigate the family violence system and to put protective measures in place to securely extricate people from dangerous and sometimes life-threatening situations. This is particularly necessary as 70% of domestic homicides occur during the context of separation making leaving a relationship without support incredibly dangerous in some instances.

If you or anyone you know needs support or assistance with family violence issues during this time of crisis, please do not hesitate to call us or any of the support services listed below in order to support you.

Where can I (both Women and Men) get help if I’m experiencing family violence?

In addition to legal advice, there are free frontline services assisting victim-survivors of family violence to help them extricate themselves from dangerous situations and help them to develop a safety-plan and assist them with setting up safe accommodation and the like. If you are in immediate danger, you should contact police on 000 immediately.

Otherwise other services include 1800 RESPECT or the Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre on 1800 015 188.

It is therefore more important than ever that both men and women look after their mental health and there are support services such as the 10-session government rebate which allows people to engage with a psychologist in times of need to support people during these difficult times.

If you need legal advice you can contact one of our experienced family violence lawyers on 9620 0088.

Women can also contact the Women’s Information Referral Exchange (WIRE) who provide free information, support and referral information for women across Victoria. They provide a Telephone Support Service, Women’s Information Centre, online Live Chat support and email support service. You can contact them on 1300 134 130.

For Men who use family violence wanting to change

The Men’s Referral Service has for 25 years been working directly with men who use family violence to support them to change and end family violence. There are counsellors available every day, specifically for men, to support them during these times. Particularly the Men’s Referral Service which can be contacted nationally on 1300 766 491 and are open Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 9:00pm and on weekends from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

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How do I make an Application for an Intervention Order in the COVID-19 crisis?

There are two ways in which you can take an Intervention Order out against a perpetrator of family violence which are as follows:

  1. If you are in immediate danger you can contact Victoria Police on 000 and inform them of your situation. The Police will assess and determine in all the circumstances of your case whether it is necessary for them to take out an Intervention Order on your behalf;
  2. Otherwise you can contact your local Magistrates’ Court and make an appointment to attend the Court for the purposes of making an Intervention Order application. The Magistrates Court is still open for matters relating to family violence. Following any Intervention Order being made, your matter will be listed for a Court Hearing. You may be entitled to a lawyer through legal aid however, this will depend on your income and a range of other factors. If you are not entitled to legal aid, you can represent yourself at the hearing or otherwise engage a private Family Lawyer. Feel free to contact our office if you would like to engage us to assist you at your court hearing.

What evidence do I need to take out an Intervention Order all I have is my word versus his/her word?

Your version of events as told by you does constitute valid evidence at law. It is important that you are completely truthful in your account of events and that you do not accidentally or intentionally misrepresent or exaggerate events when making an application for an Intervention Order.

Family Violence is very broad and people are not always able to produce concrete ‘evidence’ as abuse is not always physical and incorporates both emotional and financial abuse amongst a range of other factors. If someone is making you feel unsafe or fearful for your safety or that of your children, contact family violence services, a family lawyer, or make an appointment with your local Magistrates Court when it is safe to do so to get some guidance as to how to protect yourself. If you are in immediate danger, always call the police on 000 as a first point of call.

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Note: This is general information advice only and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters, please contact us on 03 9620 0088 or email [email protected]

 

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