Thousands of Australian women experienced violence from their partner for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic

A survey of 15,000 Australians has confirmed fears that domestic violence escalated while people were forced to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost one in 10 Australian women in a relationship have experienced domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis.

Almost one in 10 Australian women in a relationship have experienced domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis. Source: Getty Images

Thousands of women experienced domestic violence from their partner for the first time during the height of the coronavirus pandemic or the abuse they suffered became more frequent and severe.

The findings from the Australian Institute of Criminology survey of 15,000 women found almost one in 10 women who were in a relationship reported experiencing physical or sexual violence in the three months to May. 

For 33 per cent of these women, it was the first time they had experienced domestic violence in their relationship.

For one in five who experienced coercive control it was the first time their partner had been emotionally abusive, harassing or controlling.

More than half that had faced previous abuse said this had escalated. 

The AIC survey provides the most detailed account yet of a surge in domestic violence during the coronavirus shutdown which forced many people to work from home.

“Until this point, we have had reason to fear that partner violence has escalated, but we have lacked rigorous data to help inform decision-making in response,” Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety CEO Dr Heather Nancarrow said.

“This study provides the strongest evidence to date that those fears, first raised by women’s safety practitioners, were warranted.”

The AIC research showed 4.6 per cent of women surveyed experienced domestic violence during this period – and 8.8 per cent of women in a relationship.

Almost six per cent of women experienced coercive control and 11.6 per cent reported experiencing at least one form of emotionally abusive or controlling behaviour.

More than a third of women (36.9 per cent) who experienced physical or sexual violence or coercive control said that, on at least one occasion, they wanted to seek advice or support but could not.

A number of service providers have reported a marked uptick in demand for domestic violence services during the coronavirus pandemic, and have noted its impact on women of diverse multicultural backgrounds.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston on Wednesday announced another $3 million towards helping support domestic violence service providers on the ground.

“Sadly we know that times of crisis can increase the incidence of family, domestic and sexual violence which is why our government has increased by nearly 50 per cent annual funding in the wake of COVID-19,” Ms Ruston said.

“No matter the crisis, there’s still no place for domestic violence or abuse."

Minister for Social Services Anne Ruston.
Source: AAP

The funding will be shared between 23 existing service providers located across every state and territory with 93 locations nationwide.

This adds to a $150 million domestic violence emergency response package the federal government invested to boost frontline and national support services over the period of the pandemic.

The Morrison government also launched a parliamentary inquiry into domestic violence in May, which will include reviewing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

If you or someone you know is impacted by family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

Women from migrant and refugee backgrounds who are experiencing family or domestic violence can contact inTouch, the Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence on 1800 755 988 or visit intouch.org.au.


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Published 13 July 2020 at 12:57pm
By Tom Stayner