More than 1 in 10 Australian women have experienced emotionally abusive, harassing and controlling behaviours during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, new research has revealed.
A survey of 15,000 Australian women, published Monday by the Australian Institute of Criminology, provides the “strongest evidence available” about domestic violence prevalence in Australia amid the pandemic.
The report reveals 1 in 10 women in a relationship has experienced physical or sexual violence in the past three months.
Of this group, a third stated domestic violence was unprecedented within their relationship — while over half of those who had endured domestic violence previously said the nature of the violence had escalated.
The report highlights various factors that may have contributed to the increased rates of domestic violence.
"These include victims and offenders spending more time together, increased social isolation and decreased social movement — which may restrict avenues for women to seek help — and increased situational stressors associated with domestic violence like financial stress and job insecurity,” the report reads. “Offenders can also feel out of control due to situational factors and use violence and abuse as a means of creating a sense of control. [There can also be] increased alcohol consumption among domestic violence perpetrators.”
Today’s Australian Institute of Criminology report showed very sobering statistics about domestic violence during COVID. That’s why our $150m response package and continued investment in counselling for women and children is so important. pic.twitter.com/4G190LnnpE— Anne Ruston (@Anne_Ruston) July 13, 2020
The survey also reports that a large portion of women attempted to seek help unsuccessfully.
A third of women who experienced domestic violence or coercive control revealed that they wanted to seek help from police or other services but could not due to safety reasons. For women experiencing “more serious or complex forms of violence and abuse” from a current or former cohabiting partner, this figure reached 58%.
One in three women said they had called the police after the most recent attack.
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said the Australian government was committed to addressing domestic violence.
On the same day the report was published, Ruston announced a new investment of over $3 million AUD over two years to family violence support. The funding will be distributed among 23 existing support providers across the country.
"Today’s Australian Institute of Criminology report showed very sobering statistics about domestic violence during COVID,” Ruston said in a media release. ”Our priority is ensuring that when people who are experiencing family and domestic violence reach out for support, they are able to access it as quickly as possible. That’s why our $150 million response package and continued investment in counselling for women and children is so important.”
The latest funding injection follows the Australian government’s $150 million domestic violence emergency response package in March and the launch of a parliamentary inquiry into domestic violence in May.