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Media Release
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Domestic violence set to escalate with COVID-19 so governments need to act now

Frontline domestic and family violence workers are on ready alert for higher rates and increasingly serious cases of domestic violence as COVID-19 forces significant proportions of the population in isolation and places financial strain on families reliant upon income from insecure work.

“It’s a double whammy” says Women’s Safety NSW chief executive officer, Hayley Foster. “Not only are we likely to see escalating rates like what we see over holiday periods, but the services there to support women and children experiencing violence and abuse are being hamstrung with many face-to-face services being restricted or even cancelled.”

Women’s Safety NSW received feedback from a number of member specialist domestic and family violence services across the state today and found that most services have now put in place screening mechanisms for face-to-face service provision, and many are operating with staff working from home wherever possible, ensuring services continue to be offered via telephone and video conferencing facilities…

However, there are emerging reports that some of the bigger inner-city courts may go into complete lock-down whilst others will have all but the most “serious” matters adjourned to a later date…

Women’s Safety NSW and its members warn that women and their children experiencing domestic and family violence who are in quarantine are going to be the most affected… And the situation could worsen exponentially if the virus spreads to service agencies or crisis accommodation facilities themselves. “All it takes is for one person to become sick or come into contact with someone who has contracted the virus for all the wheels to fall off” says Foster. “This could result in women and children across an entire region not having access to face-to-face court advocacy support for their domestic violence matter, or a women’s refuge effectively having to close its doors to new referrals as it goes into lock-down”…

Foster says this means governments need to act quickly and proactively. “There are three areas in which we think governments can immediately step in to increase safety for women and children at this particular time, and this is in addition to the immediate reforms we have been calling for at the national level as part of the Australian Women Against Violence Alliance.”

The first area is temporary accommodation… Women’s Safety NSW is calling on the NSW Government to extend [the] accommodation support period to 14 days in line with the quarantine period

  1. The second area relates to apprehended violence orders (AVOs)… Women’s Safety NSW is calling on the NSW Government to ensure additional senior specialist domestic violence police oversight of provisional ADVOs granted during this time so that… the safety of women, children and everyone experiencing domestic and family violence is not compromised…
  2. The third and final area we believe the government needs to urgently step into at this time is in promoting safety at home for survivors of domestic and family violence… Women’s Safety NSW is calling on the NSW Government to ensure, where appropriate, consideration is given by police to the making of a provisional AVO which excludes the person accused of using violence and abuse from the home so that the victims of violence and abuse may be safe, and the person accused of violence and abuse is made responsible for obtaining alternative accommodation, whether that be privately or through temporary accommodation solutions…

“These are difficult times” says Foster. “But if we act now, and work together, we can reduce the risks for women and children who are going to be at serious threat over the coming weeks and months.”

Download full media statement HERE.

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For media, policy practice and law reform enquiries, please contact Hayley Foster on 0474 779 847 or at [email protected]

For general enquiries or to request a speaking engagement, please contact Sharon Butt at [email protected] or on 0455 551 978. 

PO Box K278, Haymarket NSW 1240

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