Domestic violence on the rise

Health services have been bolstered owing to the stresses and impacts of COVID-19. Photo

Eve Jeffery

With many people staying at home, the downside of isolation is the rise in domestic violence (DV).

A local nurse told Echonetdaily she is in a lovely, respectful and kind relationship without any history of conflict.

Recently they had their first ever argument, and she said they were ‘both quite startled by it’.

‘There was no violence, threats or safety issues, but it highlighted how tense things are, and how quickly they could escalate if one of us couldn’t regulate our emotions’.

‘For families with high levels of conflict as a base line, I could see how the heightened tensions would increase the likelihood of violence.’

‘I was the one yelling. I felt misunderstood. I stopped yelling. We were both quiet for a bit, gave each other space. He apologised, I apologised.’

There are also additional challenges to help people with cognitive disabilities understand the risks that COVID-19 presents. How do you explain to someone that they can’t see their friends or support workers any more? How do you help someone understand why they are now trapped in their own home?

Where to get help

  • There are a range of services providing immediate support to individuals experiencing domestic or family violence. These include:
  • 1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732 – confidential information, counselling and support service;
  • NSW Domestic Violence Line 1800 65 64 63 – telephone crisis counselling and referral service for women;
  • Child Protection Helpline 132 111;
  • NSW Elder Abuse Helpline 1800 628 221;
  • Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491 – provides telephone counselling, information and referrals for men;
  • Link2Home 1800 152 152 – referral for women experiencing domestic violence into crisis accommodation; and,
  • Lifeline 13 11 14 – National charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
  • If you are in danger or in an emergency, always contact triple zero (000).

Planning for the vulnerable

Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive, Wayne Jones, says COVID-19 planning and response includes support for all members of the community, including vulnerable people like those affected by homelessness and domestic violence.

He said, ‘Our existing understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, and anecdotal evidence to date, suggests that for many people experiencing domestic violence, social distancing and self-isolation measures may place them at greater risk of harm.’

Mr Jones adds that the mental health implications of living through natural and other disasters can be cumulative and can intensify existing experiences of trauma.

‘People’s complex coping responses to violence, abuse and childhood neglect, such as alcohol and other drug use, or the impacts on existing mental health issues, may also increase during times of natural and other disasters, requiring enhanced health care.’

Mr Jones says the NSW government has committed to a series of changes to enhance the support available to victims of domestic violence during COVID-19.

‘The NSW Health website and new Department of Communities and Justice COVID-19 (coronavirus) website contains information about how the community and frontline services are being supported during the COVID-19 pandemic.’

NSW Health currently provides a response to domestic and family violence through the Domestic Violence Routine Screening (DVRS) program, social work services, emergency departments, specialist mental health services, drug and alcohol services, and Aboriginal family health services.

Mr Jones says, ‘Northern NSW Local Health District is working with key service partners to ensure that the needs of individuals and their families who are victims of domestic and family violence continue to be met.’

‘Violence abuse and neglect service provision continues to be a priority of the LHD during this time, and domestic and family violence support services will continue to support people to stay safe.

The nurse I spoke to said that kindness helps.

‘When he apologised, it wasn’t to get it done with, it was because he cared about how I felt.’

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