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Staying safe during the coronavirus pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live. But there's another, sinister phenomenon placing lives at stake. The shadow pandemic - put plainly, physical distancing measures, compounded by the multitude of stressors related to COVID-19 have led to an increase in family violence.
Family violence is experiencing a spike, perhaps most telling - calls to support services are trending down, indicating victims are finding it more difficult to ask for help because they have less time apart from the person they fear.
In contrast men’s support services have reported a significant increase in perpetrators seeking help during the pandemic, with callers facing delays in getting help. This was documented by Australia's peak body for men's services, No to Violence.
The ripple affect of harm brought about by the pandemic is not limited to intimate partners. We also know that older Victorians are facing an increase in elder abuse.
Responding to the significant mental health, financial and social issues stemming from coronavirus will be the next battle facing Victorians as we transition between phased restriction measures.
For now, there are tools we can all leverage to stand united in the face of COVID 19 and the shadow pandemic. These tools are connection, equality and respect.
Connection is powerful. A phone call, a letter, a video call. These mediums keep us together while we physically distance for the greater good.
Older Victorians, particularly those living in care facilities have suffered greatly because of the coronavirus pandemic. One scan of the evening news is all that's required to familiarise yourself with the tired stereotypes associated with older Victorians. Vulnerable. Lonely. Isolated.
But what about the richness of the wisdom they have to offer? What about celebrating the unique ways families have united to ensure their elderly relatives are included, valued and respected.
Elder abuse is driven by ageism and inequality in our society, and most commonly occurs within the family.
Connection will not stop violence. It may not cure the shadow pandemic or prevent elder abuse. What it can do is keep us strong. Connection ensures no person is left unseen.
Throughout Covid-19 related restrictions you can leave your home to escape family violence, violence is never acceptable.
Connection Keeps Us Strong
Meet the Victorian families staying connected through video calls throughout the coronavirus pandemic, watch the full suite of videos on Respect Victoria's YouTube channel.
Championing gender equality in your home
The most prevalent driver of family violence is gender inequality, including rigid adherence to gender stereotypes and roles as referenced in Change The Story, the national framework for a consistent and integrated approach to preventing violence against women and their children in Australia, produced by Our Watch.
That's why we took the opportunity to interview three fathers about adjusting to 'COVID 19 normal', what has changed during lockdown and how they split up childcare and housework in their households and support each other emotionally.
Bwe, Jason and Andrew agree the perception that looking after the family is somehow less valuable than working to bring home a pay-cheque is concerning.
Working from home allowed Andrew to help his young children understand that cooking and cleaning are legitimate forms of work, to shift their understanding of what defines 'work'.
The men also noted that working from home allowed them to spend more time with their children and balance household chores more effectively with their partners.
Households that distribute caregiving responsibilities equally are at an advantage - chipping away at the outdated notion that schooling, caregiving, cooking and cleaning are somehow 'gendered tasks' - the domain of women.
Family violence is less likely to occur in households where gender equality is championed and relationships are underpinned by respect.
Almost 1 in 10 Australian women in a relationship have experienced domestic violence and abuse since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic . Of those who experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former cohabiting partner two-thirds said the violence escalated with the onset of the the pandemic. More information can be found in the prevalence of domestic violence among women during the COVID-19 pandemic article, produced by the Australian institute of criminology
There are gross imbalances in the gender distribution of unpaid care work with women spending an average of 4.1 hours per day tending to domestic work compared with 1.7 hours per day for men. More information can be found in the UN Secretary-General’s policy brief: The impact of COVID-19 on women, produced by UN Women.
International and Australian evidence tells us that when disasters such as pandemics occur, we see people revert to outdated gender stereotypes e.g. men are strong and in control; women are nurturing. More information can be found via 'The Man Box', a study on being a young man in Australia.
Older Australians are facing an increased risk of elder abuse, with experts particularly concerned about an increase in financial abuse. Women over 80 are at the highest risk of financial abuse, with adult sons the most likely perpetrators. More information can be found on the Women's Agenda website.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 000.
If you are experiencing or at risk of experiencing violence, help is available.
Safe Steps is a family violence support centre providing assistance for women, members of the community who identify as female or transfeminine, as well as their children. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 015 188. More information can be found on the Safe Steps website.
If you are worried your behaviour might be harming your family members now or may in the future, call the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More information can be found on the MensLine Australia website.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any form of elder abuse, you can discuss these concerns with a trusted family member, GP or physician.
If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse call Senior Rights Victoria confidential helpline 1300 368 821. More information can be found on the Seniors Rights website
To access a wider range of family violence crisis response information and for further information on the campaign for victims, perpetrators and bystanders of family violence, visit the contact us section on Respect Victoria's website.