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How the COVID lockdown highlighted the need for a ‘family violence toolkit’

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Nearly 10% of Australian women in domestic relationships suffered family violence during the pandemic last year.[1]

This is a sobering statistic, especially in the afterglow of International Women’s Day.

The lockdowns in Australia made the situation of many victims of family violence worse—victims who were trapped in their homes with their abuser.

During lockdown, crisis calls to domestic violence hotlines spiked across the country. Many victims, however, were unable to ask for help because they were under constant surveillance and could not access support outside the home.

The prevalence of family violence in our society, and its escalation during the health pandemic, highlights that we all need tools to help us recognise family violence and respond to it.

Most people who are affected by family violence turn to family and friends for support. What you do or say can be vitally important. Here are some essentials for recognising and responding to family violence:

What does family violence look like?

Family violence can take different forms. Often it is assumed to be physical violence, but it also includes verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual and financial abuse. Controlling and coercive conduct by a person towards another is also a form of family violence, as is violence to a pet or damage to property.

Some of the harder to identify forms of family violence include:

Financial abuse. This keeps victims financially dependent on their abusers. Victims may be prevented from working, have restricted access to money, or be forced to open bank accounts and obtain credit or loans in their name.

Technological abuse. This can include use of technology, such as social media and SMS messages, to control a partner and track their movements through GPS.

Control and coercion. This is conduct designed to entrap a victim and make it difficult to leave the relationship. Signs of coercive conduct include making threats and intimidation, creating an environment where the victim is dependent upon the perpetrator, monitoring the victim’s movements, isolating the victim from support networks, sharing intimate photographs to degrade and humiliate the victim and gaslighting behaviours.

Coercive control is not widely understood and has been described as though you feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells. Coercive control has been in the news lately, as Australian states and territories discuss criminalising this form of family violence. Criminalising coercive control would send a strong message to abusers that this type of behaviour is unacceptable.

Violence and threats of harm to pets. Half of victims of family violence stay in abusive relationships because they are worried about leaving their animals behind. States and territories are now looking at how they can amend legislation to include violence against pets. In the ACT, the RSPCA offers Project SAFE, which provides family violence victims with emergency care for their pets when they are leaving a relationship.

Help and resources

If any of the above resonates with you (your situation, or the situation of a loved one) the following agencies can help:

Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS)

Support is available from their team 24/7, 365 days per year. Calls are treated with confidentiality. DVCS can assist with providing counselling and safety planning.

The RSPCA’s Project: SAFE if you have concerns about your pets

‘Care Financial Counselling’ provides lots of easily understandable information about how to manage money and access financial support.

The major banks in Australia now offer policies to assist customers affected by family violence.

You can obtain documents at no cost and protect your contact information from being disclosed to the other party. You may also obtain emergency financial assistance.

Your employer may provide paid or unpaid leave to enable you to deal with family violence matters.

Legal assistance to understand your rights and protect your safety and your children’s safety. 

Legal Aid ACT provides a ‘drop-in’ clinic at the ACT Magistrates Court for advice and assistance relating to Family Violence Orders.

Specialist legal advice from a family lawyer.

Parker Coles Curtis specialises in Family Law and Family Violence cases. Founding Directors Debra Parker, Catherine Coles, Jacquelyn Curtis and their team provide trauma-informed advice, guidance and support.

They can assist you to apply to the ACT Magistrates’ Court for a Family Violence Order or respond to an application. Parker Coles Curtis welcomes and supports culturally and linguistically diverse families and the LGBTQI+ community.

[1] As revealed by a survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology.

Founded by a dynamic team of women, Parker Coles Curtis is Canberra’s newest boutique family law firm. Run by specialist family lawyers Debra ParkerCatherine Coles and Jacquelyn Curtis, Parker Coles Curtis are experts in helping people find solutions in both amicable and high-conflict separations. They help culturally and linguistically diverse families and the LGBTIQ+ community.  

This powerhouse team provide down to earth and practical advice with an empathetic approach. They help you to resolve your family law problems, stay calm and focus on a new beginning. Parker Coles Curtis assist with custody, property division, child support, divorce and family violence matters.

Call Parker Coles Curtis on (02) 5114 2660 or visit parkercolescurtis.com.au

 

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