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Social distancing has made it harder for domestic and family violence survivors to get help

Concerns: “The risk that social isolation with the current pandemic raises is that domestic violence often happens in silence.”

SOCIAL distancing measures have increased domestic and family

violence pressures as women and children struggle to escape

perpetrators isolated at home with them who limit their access to help, Centacare Domestic and Family Violence frontline workers say.

“The risk that social isolation with the current pandemic raises is that domestic violence often happens in silence,” Centacare Maroochydore Family and Relationship Services co-ordinator Stacy Oehlman said.

Ms Oehlman said people already did not talk openly about domestic and family violence in the community and to add on social distancing rules made it that much more difficult for survivors to access a safe way to be able to call services or speak to someone.

She said the other challenge was that often people, like neighbours, formed part of safety plans and because people were remaining in their homes, the access to those people was increasingly limited.

Stresses had risen in households across the state, the frontline workers said.

Pressures like job loss or fewer hours have placed financial strains on families; this combined with having everyone at home, including children who were not attending school, had seen family relationships strained.

Last month, the Queensland government injected $5.5 million into domestic violence services for the pandemic and Centacare DFV Wide Bay South Burnett region area manager Patricia Gorman said it had been essential to the work they do.

“We’re already using more money because there are limited spaces for people to go and to move to through the shelters,” Ms Gorman said.

“People are sometimes left with the only choice of actually staying in their home.

“So the money is being used to replace doors, to put in security doors, to put in security windows, to have video cameras in the home, to have wrist recorders.

“There’s a lot more money being spent on those things in those areas to keep women safer in the environments that they’re already in.

“It’s been essential while this has been happening because of the increase in violence and complexity that we’re seeing.”

Ms Gorman said the initial response from clients was that “they were just so grateful that we were still open”.

“We’ve kind of had this tag ‘business as usual’,” she said.

“Although primarily we’ve been working with clients by phone, where clients have been at serious risk and they’d not had any health issues they’ve been able to come in and access the service but it has been business as usual.”

The essential work of linking survivors to solicitors and police and support services was continuing.

“We have found that we’ve had an increase in making child safety reports either with the support of the women because we always do those things in conjunction with the women,” she said.

“And that’s been a lot more extra work there but yes, they’ve been very, very grateful that the service has continued to operate, and that they’ve continued to be able to access the service on a weekly or fortnightly basis or a daily basis if they’ve needed it.”

Ms Oehlman urged people experiencing domestic and family violence to seek help when they could.

“So either speak to a neighbour or a safe person or contact a service – if it’s an emergency absolutely call the police or ring triple zero,” she said.

“There’s a number of different things they can do within the home that can be looking at technology safety; what rooms in the house are safest to be in if things are escalating; if they have a safe way out of the home; do they have access to a vehicle or even a code word that they can text to friends or family to let them know that things aren’t okay and they need some help as well.”

Ms Oehlman said family relationship services were grateful for the support offered through donors that provided extra funds and other resources.

“What it means is we’re able to offer services to women and children and families that allows them to remain safely in their home in their community and well connected and receive support on an ongoing basis as much as they need,” she said.

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