The catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage nations all over the world. With medical experts at odds with economists regarding reopening of world commerce, many people are frightened and confused about the best course of action.
Factors such as the overall fear and uncertainty, paired with social distancing and economic strains, have created a deadly phenomenon. Authorities now see a sharp increase in cases of domestic violence in Western Australia, as well as the rest of the country.
What Are the Types of Domestic Violence?
The Australian Medical Association and the Australian Public Health Association identify the following types of domestic violence:
- Verbal Abuse – Communication designed to subjugate, intimidate, or demean the victim, whether in public or private. Verbal abuse often includes the overt or covert implication of the threat of physical violence.
- Physical Abuse – Actions that cause pain or injury including sexual assault, violence to property or animals, as well as the denial of nutrition, medical care, sleep, or warmth.
- Social Abuse – The creation of extreme dependence, isolation, control of socialization, and depriving the victim of freedom.
- Economic Abuse – Depriving the victim of basic necessities or seizure of money or other assets.
How Much of an Increase in Domestic Violence Are Experts Seeing in Australia?
The data pertaining to domestic violence is difficult to interpret because it comes from various sources. Additionally, cases of domestic abuse frequently go unreported. This is especially true at this time of social restrictions when many people feel trapped in their home with the abuser.
- While some discrepancies among the data exist, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated that there is a 75% increase in Google searches for domestic violence.
- Anne Ruston, Federal Families and Social Services Minister, noted cries for help increased to thousands of people every day reaching out for assistance or advice regarding domestic violence.
- WA Minister for Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Simone McGurk reports that they receive approximately 1,000 calls about domestic violence each week.
- Melonie Sheehan, the national program manager, working with the 1800RESPECT online counselling service, says they have seen a sharp spike in people who use their website for support.
- Christina Yi, from Allegra Family Lawyers, has seen a steady increase in the number of divorce proceedings initiated since COVID-19 first became well-known in Perth in early 2020.
How Does the COVID-19 Crisis Increase Instances of Domestic Violence?
While there is never a single catalyst to abusive behaviour, there are factors present during the pandemic not usually a part of everyday life. Some of these influences include:
- Financial strain due to job loss because of COVID-19.
- Emotional/mental stress caused by the various aspects of the pandemic such as:
- Constant reports of new cases and deaths
- Consistently hopeless prognosis
- Fears for individual wellbeing
- Disruption of a routine
- Potential for a limited supply of food, medicine, and other necessary items.
- Exacerbation of an existing problem. An example would be the depressed individual who has controlled the disorder, but the extreme circumstances surrounding the pandemic have worsened the depression.
How is the Government Responding to the Surge in Domestic Violence?
Both Federal and State governments are responding to the increase of domestic violence cases. Some of the recent initiatives enacted as a response to the problem of domestic violence include:
- As part of the $1.1 billion response directed at those Australians experiencing extreme difficulties because of Coronavirus, $150 million will go to strengthen resources across Australia. This assistance will focus on the programs associated with National Plan to reduce Violence against Women and their Children.
- Implementing the Help is Here program. The effort will focus on informing victims of domestic violence about various resources and avenues to assistance.
- The Western Australia government enacted a Covid-19 violence taskforce set up within the Department of Communities. The plan is to enhance laws and aid in protecting victims. Additionally, the WA COVID-19 violence taskforce will include increased penalties, simplified access to restraining orders and court ordered electronic monitoring of convicted offenders.
It is important to note, that often Coronavirus and surrounding changes are what escalates a situation that was already less than ideal. Many individuals reporting domestic violence since the pandemic began, were in relationships already marred by domestic violence or abusive behaviour. It would be a mistake to believe that when the pandemic and its restrictions are over, the domestic violence problem will go away.
Here at Lawson Legal, we are here for you should you experience a problem related to domestic violence. We can consult with you regarding the legalities connected to your case and assist you in navigating the complexities of the legal system.