Preventing family violence during the pandemic

For families affected by violence, COVID-19 driven self isolation measures can pose increased risk. No matter what the external stressors, violence is never excusable.

This Sunday 29 March marks the four-year anniversary of The Royal Commission into Family Violence – resulting in an unprecedented effort to reduce the impact of family violence in our community, and more than that, to eradicate it.

The Victorian Government’s response to the Royal Commission was swift – committing to implementing all 227 Recommendations. Prevention was prioritised as part of this unprecedented commitment, and the groundwork was set for Victoria to establish its first prevention agency dedicated to the prevention of all forms of family violence and violence against women.

Respect Victoria is that agency and we mark the Royal Commission's fourth anniversary with steely determination. 

Our commitment is further deepened with the current health crisis facing people across the globe, in Australia, and all of us here in Victoria. Day by day we're adjusting to the fallout of COVID-19. The impact Victoria's current state of emergency has on individuals, families, and communities varies. For some, the financial toll is devastating. Jobs have been lost, budgets reconfigured, housing and food insecurity a reality. For others, social distancing has compromised mental health and wellbeing. 

It is most distressing that social distancing and isolation, compounded by the multitude of stressors related to COVID-19 can lead to an increase in family violence and violence against women. 

Homes. Sanctuaries. For some people, these are dangerous places.

We issue this statement during this time of crisis to remind the community that we are as determined as ever to prevent all forms of family violence and violence against women.   

Whatever the additional pressures on families - and we acknowledge the current crisis is putting extreme pressure on us all - violence is never acceptable.

We ask the community to join us in rejecting the idea that there’s ever an excuse for family violence.   

Respect Victoria’s vision of a future free from violence is an important one, even in the current circumstances: a future where all people are safe, equal and respected; and everyone has a role to play in preventing this. 

Like our name suggests, respect is of utmost importance in how we navigate our lives in the wake of this pandemic. We can use this challenging time to reinforce respectful relationships.

Now is the time to particularly consider the welfare of children, older Victorians, people with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and LGBTIQ+ people. These groups are resilient and strong, but they're also at risk of family violence. 

Check in with vulnerable friends, family, colleagues and neighbours for whom managing COVID-19 related restrictions will be especially challenging. 

Social distancing does not mean isolating ourselves from the people we care about. It means adhering to the Department of Health and Human Service physical distancing guidelines and getting creative with connectivity. Phone calls. Video calls. Online forums. Text messages. Letter writing. Physical interaction may elude us for the short term, thankfully there are dozens of avenues to stay connected.

If tensions are raised in your household and you're feeling fearful or unsure what steps can be taken to stay safe call 1800 Respect. Their trained counsellors will listen and support you with what is right for you and your situation, this includes making a safety plan. 

If you are concerned about your behaviour and recognise your actions are putting family members in a harmful environment call the No to Violence Men's Referral Service 1300 766 491.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a friend, family member, neighbour or any member of the community during this time visit Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria's website

Victoria Police are primed and ready to intercept. The taskforce recently convened is to ensure people in quarantine are staying indoors and they have also been trained to identify at risk families.

If you are in immediate danger call 000.

This is new terrain for everybody. If you're feeling anxious visit beyondblue for information and advice.