The additional dark cloud hanging over such findings is that many women, being in daily close confinement with their abuser, may find themselves unable to make an appeal for help at all. The pandemic has compelled services to think of new approaches to this problem, such as code words to be used at supermarkets or pharmacies.
State governments have already joined Canberra’s response, with NSW adding $12.8 million to its share of the federal cash and Victoria announcing a total package of $40 million. A significant portion of this funding will be aimed at providing emergency accommodation for women and their children. This is certainly the most pressing need, but it is to be hoped that – as with the other initiatives that have resulted from the lockdown – we can use what we have learnt to finally focus resources and political will on solutions for the long term.
Earlier this year, specialists in the field set $88 million as a target figure for properly funded programs to change men’s behaviour. At a time when $688 million is being offered to help build or renovate homes around the country, such a sum does not seem too much to ask to secure the most basic social building blocks of all.
The other vital pillar of any worthwhile attempt to tackle family violence is for governments to keep the issue at the top of their agenda. Just over four years ago Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence made more than 200 recommendations, which the Andrews government committed to implementing. The question is how many more inquiries will need to be held before leaders grasp the nettle and make gender equity part of every policy.
The pandemic has seen many households slip back almost automatically into an unequal allocation of roles according to gender, even as women are hit disproportionately by unemployment. If we can start to treat these issues and the scourge of family violence as parts of a whole, then we will truly have entered the “time of reform” that so many women and their supporters yearn for.
If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
Support is also available at Lifeline on 13 11 14 and Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636