Increased financial stress, higher alcohol consumption and being forced to stay home has led to a surge in domestic and family violence, Queensland officials say.
Magistrates have been inundated with cases of domestic and family violence in their courtrooms, and paramedics are getting more calls for help.
The crisis has pushed the State Government to hold an online domestic violence summit with stakeholders and advocates to assess where funding should be directed in the future.
The news comes as Australians recognise May as Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month – a time to remind the community of the importance of supporting those affected.
Australian police deal with 5000 domestic violence matters on average every week – that’s one every two minutes. On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
“I’ve been disturbed to hear from our emergency department staff that the reduction in sporting injuries and road trauma has been partially offset by trauma caused by domestic and family violence,” Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles says.
“Anything we can do to address this increase in domestic and family violence during the pandemic is really important.”
Service providers have reported a dramatic increase in the brutality and severity of attacks on women and children, Queensland Minister for Women Di Farmer says.
“If you are a victim of domestic and family violence, life is already incredibly challenging,” she says.
“With the advent of COVID-19, those challenges have increased dramatically.
“If you are a victim you are probably now at home 24 hours a day with a perpetrator who is watching your every move, so your ability to call for help, your ability to escape is severely limited.”
She says financial loss, cabin fever, a widespread rise in anxiety and a 70 per cent increase in alcohol consumption can push violent perpetrators over the edge.
Sunshine Coast Council and regional support service Centacare are working together in a bid to deal with the issue locally.
Centacare has supported 2119 clients experiencing domestic and family violence on the Sunshine Coast this year. Of these, almost 50 per cent identify as at serious or high risk of harm.
Mayor Mark Jamieson says domestic and family violence is an insidious problem in communities and its impacts are often inter-generational. “This scourge is something we must all take a stand against,” he says.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is just as important to pause and remember all of those brave individuals affected by domestic and family violence – and particularly, those who are no longer with us as a result of abuse.”
Centacare Family and Relationship Services area manager Adam Beck says COVID-19 has changed the way the community will mark Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month in 2020. The annual community march and candle lighting vigil was not able to take place this year.
However, residents were invited to light a candle to honour victims.
“While we can’t gather together as a community, it is still extremely important we all take a stand against domestic and family violence. This is an opportunity for residents of the Sunshine Coast to unite and send a clear message that domestic and family violence will not be tolerated in our community.
“It is important that all members of the community know that domestic and family violence services, including Centacare, continue to operate and are ready to provide support.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
As a community, we can offer support to those in need. If you know someone in a violent situation, there are a few things you can do. If the person is in immediate danger, phone 000. If not, phone a support service such as DV Connect to find out how best to approach the situation. It’s important to encourage and support victims.
IF YOU NEED HELP
In an emergency call the police on Triple Zero (000)
1800 811 811
1800 600 636
1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
The Queensland Police Service has introduced an online contact option for victims in a situation where it is unsafe for them to call police about domestic and family violence: www.police.qld.gov.au/domestic-violence