Domestic violence services have stated that they need 123 more lawyers and an additional $25 million in funding to be able to cope with the influx of DV victims during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Senate COVID-19 committee last week heard that legal groups were struggling to meet demand during the pandemic.
The same groups stated they expected a further spike as restrictions ease, with more women able to flee abusive relationships.
“We are under quite incredible pressure and, although welcome, half a lawyer is not going to be sufficient to be able to really have a big impact on that huge increase in demand,” the chief executive of Women’s Legal Services Angela Lynch, told the committee hearing.
The federal government gave $20 million in funding to frontline legal services in May, but apparently, the money was poorly distributed. In Queensland, the funding given equated to half a lawyer for two years.
Half of all women who reach out for help to Women’s Legal Service Queensland are turned away, a ten per cent rise since before COVID.
“This is a problem that was existing prior to the pandemic but is certainly exacerbated by the pandemic,” spokeswoman for Women’s Legal Services Australia, Helen Matthews told the committee.
The government put $150 million into domestic violence support services in March, however, it hasn’t been enough for services to help everybody.
Domestic violence spikes in lockdown
While helplines have seen an increase in those seeking help from abusive partners, they have also seen victims seeking help to deal with nightmares, flashbacks or traumas after lockdown has triggered memories of being or feeling trapped.
Many women are waiting until their children or partner go to sleep before seeking help, with 1800RESPECT calls peaking around midnight, according to The Conversation.
The online chat function of 1800RESPECT, 1800 webchat has noticed a 30% increase in use, as people avoid partners hearing them speak on the phone about their abuse.
Victorian police reported a slight decrease in family violence since lockdown began. This likely reflects the difficulty in reporting abuse and seeking shelter.
Men’s programs see increase in requests
Services for behaviour change programs for men have also seen a spike in requests. Men form the largest number of perpetrators of domestic violence.
During the initial lockdown, No to Violence, the peak body for men’s services reported an increase in requests for services.
No to Violence offers a program entitled “Brief Intervention Service” (BIS), which holds men who are waiting to enter a program, or who are enrolled in a program that has been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19.
The Victorian Government recently announced an extra $20 million in funding to keep perpetrators “in full sight”.
FOR MELBOURNE READERS:
If your well-being is threatened by staying home, you can travel more than 5km and break curfew to find safety. Contact Safe Steps on 1800 015 188 or visit safesteps.org.au for specialist help._
FOR ALL READERS:
If you believe a friend, family member, neighbour or work colleague is at risk of family violence or you have concerns for their safety contact 1800 RESPECT to speak to a counsellor, or if you believe you are in immediate danger call 000.
If you need legal assistance relating to a DV matter please contact us on 02 9261 4281.