Pandemic highlights gaps in the family violence sector

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Pandemic highlights gaps in the family violence sector

September 14, 2020

In its submission to the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor, Emerge has highlighted many gaps and emerging trends that have been exposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has also applauded initiatives, such as the establishment of Operation Ribbon in Victoria which focused on contacting high-risk perpetrators in efforts to reduce the incidence of family violence during lockdown and the newly announced funding to keep women and their families at home while their perpetrators are provided with housing.

In all, Emerge made eleven recommendations ranging from fully funding specialised services that improve women’s safety, to more investment into ensuring CALD women and children understand the dangers of the virus and the impact it may have on their lives, and ensuring that vacant rental properties are made available to women and children and rent is paid for by the government.

Paula Westhead, Emerge’s Executive Officer said that since April and the various lockdowns had put women and children experiencing violence at greater risk.

“We have heard grim stories from many women coming into our refuge and crisis properties. A typical example is that perpetrators have pretended to be covid-positive to exert more control; another is that men who have lost their jobs are financially abusing women by taking their Centrelink payments,” Paula said.

For Paula, there are worrying trends emerging. Including the severity of violence, women experiencing family violence for the first time, and adolescents becoming more violent towards their mothers.

“Lockdown and restrictions have brought out the worst in people, highlighted the lack of resilience among an already fragile and vulnerable group of people,” Paula said.

For Emerge, the pandemic has also emphasised the essential role it plays both for women and families in refuge and living in the community.

The new 24/7 refuge, one of a handful in Victoria, was opened during  the first lockdown with new families being accepted.

At the same time, Emerge volunteers and counsellors moved into the community to deliver essential cleaning items, masks, food and baby needs to families in outreach.

“Keeping strictly to the protocols, being able to deliver first hand to our families allowed us to check that they were safe, what their needs were and what we needed to keep supplying,” Paula said.

One of the evident needs was for women to feel supported which is why Emerge has introduced virtual counselling and arts therapy, a move which looks set to continue for some time.

“Our experience shows that while much has been achieved since the Royal Commission into Family Violence delivered its report, reform needs to speed up.”


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