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When home is no safe haven

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There is no excuse for family violence, and while COVID-19 restrictions may be changing our day-to-day work and life experience across Canberra, it is business as usual for the ACT’s frontline domestic violence support services who are ready to assist.

“Services have continued to prioritise the safety of women and children and have remained open,” said Kirsty Windeyer, ACT Coordinator-General for Family Safety.

The ACT Government has compiled a list of resources for anyone needing immediate support on the COVID-19 website. And anyone needing assistance due to violence in the home can access help 24-hours a day despite any of the COVID-19 restrictions.

This includes the Domestic Violence Crisis Service on 6280 0900 or the national counselling service 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732, which are both available 24/7.

Domestic and family violence includes physical and non-physical violence, such as controlling someone’s movements, monitoring their phone or email and humiliating or degrading them.

While job loss, financial stress, and movement restrictions during the current COVID-19 pandemic can exacerbate these behaviours, they are never an excuse.

“There is help available if you are using violence or are worried that you might,” Kirsty said. “You should immediately contact one of the services who can assist.”

But measures put in place to protect the community during the pandemic may, unfortunately, have placed some people at greater risk of domestic and family violence.

Being at home and isolated can be a tool used by people who use violence and controlling behaviours within their relationships.

People experiencing domestic violence also have fewer opportunities for contact outside the home—their regular touchpoints are not there to notice distress or to discuss problems.

Early indicators provided by frontline services suggest that while existing levels of domestic and family violence had worsened in many homes, it had also tipped some relationships into violence for the first time.

“Women are making contact for the first time, saying their partner has never been like this before.”

Services are ready for an anticipated increase in contacts as social distancing measures are further relaxed and people feel more able to seek help.

“But our message is that services and supports in the ACT are fully functioning and ready to assist now, so there is no reason to wait if you need help,” said Kirsty.

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