The coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns to deal with it have led to a big spike in domestic violence and other forms of abuse, with two-thirds of victims reporting violence for the first time.
“There has been more violence in more Australian homes. The severity of violence has increased and COVID is actually being weaponised within the home as a tool of abuse,” Natasha Stott Despoja, chair of campaign group Our Watch, told the National Press Club on Wednesday.
A survey of 15,000 Australian women found nearly one in 20 suffered physical or sexual violence from their current or former partner between March and May. Two-thirds of these said it was the first time. Nearly one in eight reported experiencing at least one form of emotionally abusive, harassing or controlling behaviour.
Frontline domestic violence workers around the country have also reported increases in the frequency and severity of violence during the pandemic, with many hearing from women for the first time. Services in Canberra said new domestic violence cases in June more than doubled compared to last year, while two-fifths of Victorian frontline workers said in April – during the first lockdown – they saw a rise in first-time violence.