Violence spike fear

Together We Can is an initiative committed to stopping, preventing and ending family violence in Cardinia Shire. Picture: GARY SISSONS 197405_03

By Mitchell Clarke

Victoria Police is anticipating a spike in family violence incidents, as families are forced into lockdown during the Covid-19 crisis.

Prevention of Family Violence Minister Gabrielle Williams announced on 10 April that $40.2 million would be put into crisis accommodation and specialist services for people suffering or at risk of family violence.

“For some women, the biggest fear during this pandemic won’t be coronavirus – it will be the fear they can’t escape a violent partner,” Ms Williams said.

“We’ve worked with our specialist family violence services to identify and deliver exactly what they need to help Victorians escaping family violence throughout the coronavirus pandemic … no one will be left behind.”

Victoria Police said a potential spike in family violence reports could be linked to this time of “heightened stress and uncertainty”.

“This can be influenced by the pressures and unease of the current climate, family members self-isolating and concerns about financial impacts,” a Victoria Police spokesperson said.

“While we acknowledge that it is a difficult and challenging time, there are no excuses for abusing a loved one.”

In 2019, the total number of family violence incidents in Cardinia rose by almost 25 percent to 1408 incidents, according to the Crime Statistics Agency.

Statewide, police responded to 84,550 incidents last year, meaning officers attended 232 family violence incidents daily or one event every six minutes.

Together We Can is a local initiative which aims to stop, prevent and end family violence within the Cardinia Shire.

“What Together We Can (TWC) really stands for is that respect and equality starts in the home,” TWC facilitator Fiona Cost said.

“It’s really important for families at home to think about ways they can maintain stress and avoid the build up of getting under each others skin and instead spend more time learning how to work together, play together and learn together.”

Ms Cost added it was “more and more important” to continue checking in with loved ones regularly.

“Even with distance, we can still check in and show one another that we do care. Most of us have access to the internet and have an opportunity to check in with loved ones,” she said.

“Use video where possible. This is a way that we can really see how people are coping during this time.”

Monash University’s gender and family violence prevention centre deputy director Silke Meyer said bystanders, including family and friends, neighbours and co-workers, could play a key-role in supporting victims.

“Use this time to send friends or family a message, whether it be an emoji or something to safely illustrate an alert, so if things are escalating or are unsafe, you can alert the responsible authority,” Professor Meyer said.

“The biggest challenge for victims now is that the window to call for help is very restricted as people are home together for longer periods.

“I’m sure perpetrators will use the lockdown as a form of manipulation by using mechanisms such as ‘police giving fines to people out of isolation’ … it’s really important for victims to know that services are still open, police are working and help is available.”

Support services are available by calling 1800 RESPECT. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 000.