Domestic Abuse and violence in family law during the COVID-19 lockdown- 2021

Domestic violence, unfortunately, is a common problem in Australia, with one study stating that about 23.9% of the total women in the country have been victims of domestic abuse in their lifetimes. Now let’s dive into some more information and ask the question of the hour – has domestic abuse increased during the COVID-19 lockdown?

According to ABC News, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Centre for Justice surveyed 362 domestic family violence (DFV) agencies and individuals across the country about their personal experiences from June till the end of August last year.

And according to the data, during the pandemic, domestic violence rates have increased tremendously. This is a cause of concern in the context of COVID-19, which is a lengthened crisis, it is thus expected that domestic violence reports during and after COVID-19 may be even greater than those seen during previous such events. In this article, we will talk about violence in the context of Family Law during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Accounting public responses during COVID-19 is an important way to ensure the suitability and effectiveness of epidemic response efforts. An analysis of social media provides an estimate of public sentiment during an emergency like the current pandemic. The measures introduced across the globe to help control the spread of the coronavirus have led to the emergence of a situation also known as a perfect storm, resulting in a wave of domestic violence in Australia.

Most legal service providers saw a surge in demand, and nearly half said their clients reported an increase in controlling behaviours, most of them wanting to contact their Divorce Lawyers.

Almost one in 15 women in a relationship have experienced domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis, with two-thirds saying the attacks started or became worse during the pandemic and one third approaching their Family Lawyer.

Domestic violence is not just limited to one type of abuse. For abuse to be categorized under ‘domestic violence, it doesn’t have to take place just in a home or among family members or with someone the victim is in a relationship with. It also includes instances of abuse where someone close to the victim has power over them and is trying to control them.

Following are the types of abuse that fall under domestic violence:

Family Law related to Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse can and does often goes unrecognised because it is normalised in society and also, the signs can be very subtle which are not visible or recognizable upfront, but it can be very hurtful. Someone who is emotionally abusing the victim wants to slowly chip away at their feelings of self-worth and independence.

Sexual abuse

The term ‘sexual abuse’ covers a wide range of abusive sexual or predatory behaviour including rape, indecent assault and a range of other unwanted sexual behaviours used by offenders which they use to control their victims.

Understand sexual abuse law in family
Understand sexual abuse law in family

Sexual abuse

The term ‘sexual abuse’ covers a wide range of abusive sexual or predatory behaviour including rape, indecent assault and a range of other unwanted sexual behaviours used by offenders which they use to control their victims.

Understand what is Social Abuse and Family Law

Social abuse

Social domestic violence is also very hurtful and occurs when someone close to the victim humiliates them in front of other people as a method to shame them or make them feel unworthy, the abuser also intentionally keeps them away from family and friends or controls their behaviours and actions to restrain them from having any kind of social freedom or contact.

Financial abuse

If someone close to the victim tries to limit their financial independence by controlling their access

to finances, resulting in financial powerlessness in the victim, this is also counted as a form of domestic violence.

learn about financial abuse and laws related to family
learn about financial abuse and laws related to family

Financial abuse

If someone close to the victim tries to limit their financial independence by controlling their access

to finances, resulting in financial powerlessness in the victim, this is also counted as a form of domestic violence.

sometimes spiritual abuse happens in the family and there is law too

Spiritual abuse

Spiritual domestic violence is a form of abuse that prevents the victim from having their own opinions and beliefs on religion, cultural beliefs and values. It may also involve making the victim doubt their thoughts on spirituality in order to make them feel powerless. Abuse that causes shame is a big part of spiritual abuse, so it prevents them from practising their religious or cultural beliefs.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is an extreme form of abuse wherein the victim is being physically hurt and traumatised, putting their lives in danger. This form of abuse is very obvious and does not go unnoticed, however, the fear and trauma that the victim goes through results in them not having the confidence or power to actually stand up to the abuser since it is someone close to them and someone they trust or used to trust.

Learn about physical abuse in family law
Learn about physical abuse in family law

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is an extreme form of abuse wherein the victim is being physically hurt and traumatised, putting their lives in danger. This form of abuse is very obvious and does not go unnoticed, however, the fear and trauma that the victim goes through results in them not having the confidence or power to actually stand up to the abuser since it is someone close to them and someone they trust or used to trust.

Why has Domestic Violence increased during Covid-19?

The coronavirus restrictions, coupled with rising unemployment rates and financial scarcity, have resulted in domestic violence cases spiking across the country.

Women have stated that the financial pressures trigger their partner into a fit of rage at minor things like their child leaving the light on while leaving the room. This kind of behaviour induces fear in women and makes them rethink the safety of their children as well. The women seeking the help of child support lawyers and divorce lawyers in Perth are scared for their lives and usually, in these cases, the partner is drinking steadily while limiting the partner’s access to finances and other safety protocols.

It is often believed that these violent outbursts in men are a result of poor anger management skills, but it is observed that these men are not violent in other situations that have the potential of making them angry. More often than not, these outbursts are calculated in a way that is only limited to them inflicting violence within their family where they think it is allowed. This shows that this is not an issue of men failing to control their anger, but is an issue of power since family matters are not discussed outside the four walls of the house. The point is that there is never an excuse for violence and this is where divorce mediator and family mediator come into play.

Violence against women, including family violence, happens because of three key reasons:

  • The distribution of power and resources between men and women are unequal in nature.
  • Rigidity in the nature of men and women’s roles in society is also a form of gender inequality.
  • Attitudes and cultures that excuse violence or inequality.

The survey revealed attitudes in our society that need to change, for example:

  • 17% of Australians think that domestic violence is a private matter, to be handled in the home and definitely not with the help of a family lawyer.
  • More than 20% of Australians believe domestic violence can be excused if the abuser is not able to control their anger or regrets their actions.
  • 16% of Australians believe women say “No” when they indeed mean “Yes”.
  • 1 in 5 people believes if a woman is raped while drunk or under the influence of any substance that causes her to lose consciousness partly, she is responsible.

This data reveals so much more than just numbers. It goes on to show us how inequality in attitudes and roles result in horrible acts of violence that are downright inexcusable.

(Data source Wiley Online Library)

How can we control the rising Domestic Violence?

In April 2020, domestic violence crisis support launched a webchat service for women who needed to ask for help and wanted to contact a family mediation service while their perpetrator was in the house.

If we want to control rising Domestic Violence in Australia during the Pandemic, the framework for inquiring and the following response is something we should start with.

Ask: Ensuring the survivor is alone to ask is the first step. Starting with closed yes/no questions on telehealth to ensure the survivor is safe to talk. For example – How are you?. This can be followed up with other general safety-related questions like – Is it safe to ask you how things are at home?

If the responder answers in the affirmatives, other questions like ‘Do you feel safe at home should be asked.

Listen: Respecting the survivor’s rights considering if they want to contact a Law solicitor in Perth and not rushing should be the next step.

Validate: Believing the survivor and making sure to remind them that it is not their fault.

Provide safety: Completing a safety assessment offering safety planning like contacting a Law Solicitor in Perth, family mediation or spousal maintenance.

If a plan is already in place, using safe words/safe colour clothing as a safe conversation

Support: Referring the survivor to appropriate services. For example, their Family Attorney or Spousal Maintenance. Organising a safe time for follow-up is a must.

Keeping the raging pandemic in mind, safety planning may also change. Survivors may find that their current plans are not able to be enacted because of changes in social support systems.

The support should enquire about a safe time to organise a follow-up call that includes safe words or the use of certain colours that signal concern for safety.

According to a study, in a national random survey of 650 divorced Australians, reports suggested that 12.1% of respondents had filed for divorce due to physical violence.

survey on seeking assistance for domestic and family violenceLegal advice and support are vital following the breakdown of a de facto relationship or marriage. The breakdown of a marriage or de-facto relationship with the help of a family lawyer is one of the most stressful and difficult times in a person’s life. There are a lot of difficult decisions that need to be made which can be hard to do at such a stressful time. Our expert lawyers at Calverley Johnston in Perth can guide you through the process and advise you of your best options.

Our Family Law section in the Calverley Johnston website has experienced solicitors who are able to offer legal support and advice in all areas of family law matters and disputes. At the initial stages of consultation in Perth, we will be able to advise the victim of their rights and entitlements as well as the Court processes going forward.

Collectively, we need to think about how we can direct the new frontiers like the Internet, social media to be the forces for good and the known forces like the Family lawyer, Divorce Lawyers in Perth, Divorce Mediators in Perth, Spousal Maintenance, Child Support Lawyers, law solicitor in Perth and Family Attorneys, for changes that we know that they will bring about in people’s lives and in the society.