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COVID-19 aggravates domestic violence concerns

May 1, 2020

Carr & Co

By Jamie Davidson, Lawyer

‘You are not stuck at home; you are safe at home’. This phrase has been circulating social media in an effort to generate a positive attitude towards isolation measures. Shifting to an outlook of gratitude will help to raise morale while we self-isolate and navigate through this pandemic.

However, this phrase is not applicable to those who are fighting the pandemic of domestic violence. While social isolation seeks to protect us from COVID-19, it simultaneously acts as a dangerous catalyst for victims of violence.

On March 29, in response to an influx of google searches and helpline calls surrounding domestic violence concerns, Scott Morrison announced a $150 million injection of funds into Australia’s Domestic Violence resources.

The spike in these numbers and the urgent government response provide a distressing insight into how isolation measures have and will continue to endanger those vulnerable to abuse.

The source

While it is always an abusers choice to abuse, there are a number of triggers or “excuses” regularly cited as the cause of a domestic violence attack.

Financial problems are the leading source of relationship conflict and the bulk of evidence suggests that with financial stress comes an increased risk of violence. This applies equally to households of all income levels. Trouble paying the mortgage, bills or maintaining a certain standard of living is a loss of control and violent acts can become more prevalent as a result.

Mental health issues as well as substance use by perpetrators is also linked to the committing of domestic violence acts. Substance use especially plays a significant role in the occurrence and severity of incidents. A person’s inhibition and their ability to reason are fogged when under the influence and as a result, they may lose control earlier or behave in more extreme acts of violence.

An abuser seeks to regain the power that they have lost in these volatile and personal struggles. Their outlet can be seen in the controlling, coercive or violent acts they commit against their partner. COVID-19 isn’t creating domestic violence situations from scratch. Disasters generally operate as an accelerator in a relationship. The concern for domestic violence victims now, is how much the current environment will exacerbate any pre-existing violent tendencies.

Nowhere to go

Domestic violence operates in an environment based on control and subjects are generally already isolated from family and friends. Since COVID-19 the control a preparator has over isolating a victim has undoubtedly increased. Under normal circumstances, everyday outings such as work and school drop offs would provide an excuse to ease tension and reduce exposure to a violent partner. These opportunities are no longer available. External support networks of family and friends are no longer easily accessible.

Social isolation combined with the increased financial and mental toll that a pandemic has is potentially a fatal mixture for victims of domestic violence.

Financial freedom now out of reach

Research shows that on average it takes between five to seven attempts before a victim permanently leaves an abusive relationship. A central reason for this is the use of financial abuse or control, causing economic dependence.

This silent exploit occurs in almost every domestic abuse situation. As a result of an abusive partner’s effort throughout a relationship to either control finances; or control their partner’s ability to earn an income, most victims are left unable to support themselves financially.

With well over a million Australians expected to be left unemployed as a result of COVID-19, the already difficult task of escaping an abusive relationship and becoming financially independent may now seem impossible. The financial hold an abuser has over their partner will only be expected to tighten.

There are increased support services available to help at this time. If you are in this type of situation or know of someone else who is, consider the below resources or contact the specialist team at Carr & Co for further assistance.