Has Domestic Violence Increased or Decreased during COVID-19?

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Woman saying stop with hand upAccording to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), domestic violence has not increased during COVID-19. Calls to the NSW Domestic Violence Line also showed no evidence of COVID-related increase.

However, a survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) found otherwise. The survey stated that two-thirds of women already suffering from domestic violence experienced an escalation in violence during COVID-19.

Local organisations such as Victim Support ACT saw a 130 per cent increase in new family violence matters in June.

Why is there such a difference in the statistics on domestic violence?

NSW Police stated that incidents of domestic violence-related assault for the month of April 2020 were lower than in April 2019. BOCSAR acknowledged that many people may not have been able to seek assistance with their partner around more often. However, domestic violence-related murder and serious assaults were also down.

According to the AIC, fifty-six per cent of women who experienced domestic violence in the last three months said they had not contacted police.

CEO of Domestic Violence NSW Delia Donovan believes these statistics don’t paint the full picture.

“Any statistics related to Domestic and Family Violence must consider the huge level of under-reporting we know takes place. It is also important to seek out the stories that help us to understand what’s happening. We know from our members that service provisions such as counselling and safety planning have experienced significant increases in demand over the March to May period. Disturbingly, they are also seeing an increase in the complexity and severity of cases,” she said.

woman phoning for help over domestic violenceWhen COVID-19 restrictions initially eased in June, domestic violence researchers had warned of a ‘tsunami’ of victims coming forward, according to the ABC.

Those estimates were based on a range of studies from previous disasters, where data showed that family violence often escalates during and after large-scale disasters or crises.[i]

The AIC listed factors which may increase the prevalence or severity of domestic violence including:

  • Spending more time together;
  • Restriction for women to seek help due to isolation;
  • Increased situational stressors including financial stress and job insecurity;
  • Offenders feeling out of control due to the situation and using abuse as a means of creating control; and
  • Increased alcohol consumption among domestic violence perpetrators.

If this article has caused distress about domestic violence you can contact

NSW Domestic Violence Helpline – 1800 65 64 63

1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732

 

[i] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jocn.15296

Sarah Gore

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O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors specialise in multiple areas of criminal and civil law. 

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