Family violence-related hospital visits and registered domestic violence offences have spiked in Victoria over the past month, prompting the establishment of a new multilingual anti-violence awareness campaign.
One of Melbourne’s largest hospitals said domestic violence cases had more than doubled in the first quarter of 2020 compared to 2019, while Victoria Police reported more than 780 domestic violence offences across April.
At the same time, 14% of family violence calls to Victoria Police were specifically linked to stressors due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Victoria's Prevention of Family Violence Minister Gabrielle Williams said she hopes the new “Respect Each Other: Call It Out” campaign will raise awareness and equip victims and bystanders with the “skills and autonomy to safely intervene” against domestic violence.
The campaign will run across metropolitan, regional and rural TV, as well as on radio, Spotify and social media platforms.
Williams emphasised that “family violence doesn't discriminate between languages or cultures,” and, as such, the campaign will also run in Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Italian and Vietnamese.
"We understand social isolation and physical distancing is extremely difficult, but there’s never an excuse for family violence — as a community we need to call it out and take care of each other during this difficult period,” Williams said in a media release. “We want Victorians to know that help is there if you need it. If you’re experiencing, at risk of, or witness any kind of family violence — please reach out for help and support.”
There’s never an excuse for #familyviolence. We welcome the @VicGovAu Respect Each Other: Call It Out campaign which reminds Victorians to call out family violence when they see or hear it. #DomesticViolence#Victoriahttps://t.co/hL9kr1luZS— OzChild (@OzChildTweets) May 13, 2020
The new campaign follows a recently announced $40.2 AUD million state government injection into specialist services and accommodation for individuals facing family violence.
Of the funds, $20 million will go toward ensuring short-term accommodation is available for Victorians who may be socially distancing or recovering from coronavirus at home with their abuser. The other half will be spent to help family violence services appropriately respond to the increased number of calls and in-need individuals.
An increase in calls to family violence services has been felt nationwide.
Google is recording the highest number of searches for family violence assistance since 2015, with searches increasing by 75%, according to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Melonie Sheehan, the national program manager at the 1800RESPECT online counselling service, meanwhile, said she’d seen a 20% increase in people visiting the support website — 9% of which explicitly stemmed from COVID-19.
"People do feel trapped,” Sheehan told SBS. “People are feeling triggered by living in a household, and also some people are not safe because they are living in an environment with someone or are being socially isolated in an environment with someone who chooses to use violence.”
The campaign and new Victorian government funding will work in conjunction with a federal government awareness campaign on how to get help during COVID-19. The Australian government has also provided a national $150 million bundle to help people experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence during the crisis.
You can see all of Global Citizen's COVID-19 coverage here.