COVID-19 and Family Violence
Updated: Apr 9, 2021
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in reports of family violence throughout the world. In Victoria, COVID-19 related lockdowns have contributed to the highest rates of family violence in the state’s history — with Victoria Police’s recorded crime trends revealing that the monthly number of family violence incidents was higher in every month of 2020 compared to 2019.
Whilst this is not uncommon in times of natural disaster or emergency — such as in the aftermath of the Christchurch Earthquake or Hurricane Katrina — the intensity of the acceleration in family violence rates has led the United Nations to declare this violence as a ‘shadow pandemic’.
There are a number of factors which have contributed to this rapid increase in rates of family violence, including:
High rates of stress and uncertainty
Job insecurity and job loss
Increased rates of alcohol/drug use and abuse
Most concerningly, lockdowns and periods of isolation have led to many victims being trapped at home with their perpetrator for lengthy periods of time, with very little opportunity to leave the house alone or contact crisis services. Although seeking help for family violence has always been a legally acceptable reason to leave home, safety concerns surrounding the pandemic have been a significant barrier for those wishing to seek help.
Whilst we have hopefully seen the end of lengthy lockdowns in Victoria, these risks remain as prevalent as ever whilst many people continue to work and study from home.
For those who may be affected by family violence, it is important to understand and recognise when family violence has occurred.
The Family Law Act defines family violence as violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person's family, or causes the family member to be fearful.
Examples of such behaviour include (but are not limited to):
Physical or sexual abuse
Emotional or psychological abuse
Intentionally damaging or destroying property
Intentionally causing death or injury to an animal
Importantly, family violence also includes behaviour that causes a child to hear, witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of family violence. This includes situations in which a child comforts or assists a family member who has experienced family violence, cleans up a site in which family violence has occurred (such as by cleaning up damaged/broken property), or is present when emergency services attend an incident of family violence.
If you, your child, or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 000.
If you need legal advice relating to a Family Law matter, contact Clark Family Lawyers on 03 9988 2387.
For more information and links to other support services, visit https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/family-violence-crisis-response-and-support-during-coronavirus