Australia Domestic violence funds a 'splash in pan'
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Cases of domestic and family violence could rise across New South Wales over the coming months as people enter self-isolation and lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Domestic Violence NSW welcomed the federal government's $150 million funding injection for the sector announced on Sunday, but says it is merely a "splash in the pan" for an already underfunded space.
DVNSW spokesperson Renata Field says there has been a varied response across the sector due to COVID-19, with some services experiencing up to a 40 to 50 per cent increase in demand while others have seen none.
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She says the ones that have not experienced any increase are the most concerning.
"We're particularly worried about how folks who are marginalised or in unsafe situations might be impacted by not being able to have a safe place to make a call or check emails," Ms Field told AAP on Monday.
"Reports internationally and research from previous crises show that domestic violence increases during crisis periods; we have seen this start to happen in Australia too."
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Ms Field said there are more silence among marginalised groups such as those from refugee and immigrant backgrounds, and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, as well as disabled individuals.
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She added there has been about a 10 per cent increase in service needs in regional NSW, but believes this is only the beginning as the virus spreads.
"I think we're really at the start. A lot of people will start reaching out to try and work out what they're doing before we get into a big, long-term lockdown but I think there's also going to be a huge spike in reporting when things do cool down."
In 2013, Rebecca (whose name has been changed for privacy reasons) left her abusive husband to give her two young children a better life.
Physically and emotionally abusive, her husband of 14 years ran his business from their NSW home.
She told AAP she was glad her children were at school during the day to avoid his wrath for a small window of time, but fears for families in the current crisis.
"Could you imagine if you had kids running around in the day with someone who is volatile? You have to keep making sure the kids are quiet and that can be a bigger problem sometimes," she said on Monday.
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"I would often take the kids out of the house to the park, or take them bowling, to the shops, to the beach.
"That was what we did to escape, but that is not an option for families at the moment."
After three years trying to work out how to get away, she finally took the plunge but it was only with the support of family and tapping into services that she was able to do so successfully.
"It takes a lot of courage to leave and it is even more difficult to sustain it. People need to be prepared."
She encourages anyone struggling with domestic and family violence to have a clear plan and strategy, as well as trusted people, particularly as the pandemic worsens and options for movement may become limited.
"We need to start empowering women to use these services and work out what is right for you at this particular time," Rebecca said.
DVNSW will be working with the NSW government and domestic and family violence services to ensure these funds are utilised in the most practical way.
"Our message to anyone experiencing domestic and family violence in NSW is clear and simple - help is available to you. Services are and will remain open," Ms Field said.
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"It is important that people in the community, friends, families and neighbours know violence in the home is never acceptable and that the current situation is no exception."
If you need help or you have experienced domestic/family violence or sexual assault, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) to speak with a counsellor at the National Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence hotline. If you require immediate assistance, call Triple Zero (000)
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