Domestic Violence increased during Melbourne lockdown – Protective Group

Domestic Violence increased during Melbourne lockdown – Protective Group

Domestic Violence increased during Melbourne lockdown

The COVID-19 pandemic Melbourne lockdown has “weaponised” domestic violence against women and children and cries for help have “gone through the roof”, family crisis workers say.

Domestic violence support groups say the Victorian government-imposed Melbourne lockdown has left victims isolated in the family home, with their abusers angered by job losses and fuelled by alcohol and drugs.

Support workers say domestic violence is worsening during the stay at home pandemic shutdown. John Gomez

Domestic Violence Victoria special adviser Alison Macdonald said the social isolation and restriction measures had left vulnerable people in a “really, really dangerous situation”.

“We are very concerned women and kids are in social isolation with someone in the home using violence and abuse against them,” she said. “We think this is what we are seeing here in Victoria during the pandemic.”

Domestic violence services remain operational during the shutdown and people who do not feel safe are allowed to leave their home and avoid a police fine.

Gaby Thomson, chief executive of the Doncaster Community Care and Counselling Centre in Melbourne’s east, said the centre had received at least 60 new clients since late March and the counselling waiting list had blown out to 24 people, from a usual six.

We’ve seen a significant impact since COVID and with the stage-four lockdowns it will exacerbate it. Gaby Thomson, Doncaster Counselling Centre CEO

“I just had a meeting with our child protection colleagues and they were confirming their rates are going through the roof with family violence and mental health issues.

“Family violence thrives in isolation and there is a lot of evidence coming through the support agencies how the pandemic is being weaponised, with the pandemic environment being justified to use abusive and controlling behaviour.

“We’ve seen a significant impact since COVID and with the stage-four lockdowns it will exacerbate it.”

Adolescents were finding the lockdown incredibly challenging and sometimes lashing out against their parents and family members.

“We’ve seen an increase in adolescent violence in homes,” Ms Thomson said.

“Young people are generally very social, so levels of frustration are high and their ability to manage anger and hormones is more challenging.

“We’ve just had a significant increase in referrals for children’s counselling.

“We got to a point where it was out of control.”

The centre was able to negotiate a financial grant and has recruited probationary clinical psychologists to cope with the extra demand for help.

It follows reports from mental health and suicide prevention services that demand is surging and doctors raising concerns that the virus lockdown is causing people to miss diagnoses of other health problems and treatment.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday announced an additional $12 million for mental health care, including for Headspace, the Kids Helpline and Beyond Blue. He said there was “stress, anxiety, strain and pressures” on people in Victoria.

Premier Daniel Andrews signalled the state government would also provide more support, on top of recent extra funding for Family Safety Victoria.

Ms Thomson also said the people movement restrictions and lack of internet access for some made it more difficult for women to file intervention orders against estranged partners.

“Having to do things online is more difficult because a lot of women are monitored so that makes it really, really hard to do it themselves,” she said.

Not being able to have face-to-face contact with mentors had “added to stress”.

Online court hearings and delays to cases had also been problematic.

“There is anecdotal evidence that parole boards are favouring parole and earlier bail for low-risk offenders to reduce risk of virus transmission in prisons,” Ms Thomson said.

Stephen Wilson, chief executive of Protective Group, which provides safety and security solutions for family violence, said he had experienced a “huge increase in referrals”.

“When stage four hit the increase in cries for help went through the roof,” he said.