Locked Down with the Perpetrator: The Hidden Impacts of COVID-19 on Domestic and Family Violence in Australia
Prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic, domestic and family violence (DFV) had been recognised globally as an epidemic in its own right. Further, research has established that during times of crisis and/or after disasters, rates of DFV can escalate. The COVID-19 pandemic has been no exception, with emerging research from around the world confirming that the public health measures and social effects associated with COVID-19 have increased the frequency and severity of DFV in various countries. In contributing to this evolving body of literature, this paper reports on the findings of a national research project that examined the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on DFV in Australia. This nationwide survey of service providers indicates the public health responses to COVID-19 such as lockdowns and travel restrictions, while necessary to stem the pandemic, have had profound effects on increasing women’s risk and vulnerability to domestic violence, while at the same time making it more difficult for women to leave violent relationships and access support. However, this vulnerability is not evenly distributed. The pandemic pushed marginalised voices further underground, with many unable to seek help, locked down with their abuser. Our survey sought to amplify the experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities; Indigenous communities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, + (LGBTIQ+) communities; women locked down with school-age children; those already in violent relationships; and those whose first experience of domestic violence coincided with the onset of the pandemic. For logistical and ethical reasons, we could only access their voices through the responses from the domestic violence sector.
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