News

You are not alone, domestic violence service says

By Ivy Jensen

OUR specialist domestic violence response service is concerned by a drop in calls to support services since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Centre for Non-Violence chief executive Margaret Augerinos said it was always difficult to know the true number of domestic violence victims, but the silence during this global pandemic was telling.

“Because we are being asked to socially distance and remain at home unless it is essential to go out, women have limited opportunities to make calls away from their abuser, or access services,’’ she said.

“We have seen fewer calls, but many of those coming are in the high-risk category – which means women are not in a position to be able to reach out for the help they need until they are in crisis.

“This is not what we want. We want to reach those women before the abuse or violence escalates.”

CNV will next week start an advertising campaign with the message ‘you are not alone’.

Ms Augerinos said the centre was hearing from women about men changing their tactics of abuse during the coronavirus crisis.

“Some men working from home are not giving their partners respite from their demands, and others are stopping their partner leaving the house for essential items,” she said.

“In some cases, vulnerable children are being prevented from attending school, but the abuser is not helping with remote learning.”

Other tactics of abuse include restricting or monitoring someone’s movements and conversations with others, stopping a woman calling support networks; monitoring or taking away devices or social media accounts; withholding money or food; using misinformation about the virus to scare someone or using the virus as an excuse to ignore parenting or intervention orders.

“We want women to know we are here, and they can talk to us about what is happening,’’ Ms Augerinos said.

“While it is difficult for women to find a safe way to contact Centre for Non-Violence, some women may be able to create a plausible reason for leaving the house, or wait for their partner to fall asleep before calling. They should always try to call from a room with an exit.”

CNV can help women prepare safety plans – regardless of whether the woman intends to leave the relationship.

“We know it takes courage to seek help if you are living in fear,’’ Ms Augerinos said.

“We can talk to you about a range of options to help keep you safe.”

She said it was important to hold perpetrators to account and place the onus on them to change their attitudes and behaviour.

Men who are worried about their behaviour towards family members are encouraged to contact CNV for support.

“It is also important we find ways to stay connected with those we know are at risk,’’ Ms Augerinos said.

“Someone living in an abusive relationship may stop communicating during this time, or when speaking with you they may be anxious or express concern about their partner becoming angry.”

Centre for Non-Violence can be contacted on 1800 884 292 and the 24-hour statewide safe steps family violence crisis response line is 1800 015 188.

Men’s referral service is 1300 766 491.

In an emergency, call 000.

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