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Demand for domestic violence services set to soar

Image: 1800RESPECT

Domestic violence organisations are preparing for a significant increase in requests for assistance when coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Domestic Violence Victoria Acting Policy Unit Manager, Alison Birchall, said disasters and emergencies have “a significant impact on family violence” and organisations are expecting an increase in frequency and severity of reported cases when social restrictions are lifted.

“We understand that often in times of disaster we don’t get an increase in family violence reports during the disaster but it comes after in the recovery phase,” Ms Birchall said.

Some organisations are already experiencing a surge, with some of Domestic Violence Victoria’s member services reporting that “requests for help have quadrupled”.

“This disaster has the unique aspect that people are socially isolated in their homes and for those people experiencing family violence they’ll be in isolation potentially with people using violence against them and will have very limited options for contacting outside services for help,” Ms Birchall said.

On April 10, Victorian Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, Gabrielle Williams, announced a $40.2 million support package for domestic violence from the Victorian Government, including $20.2 million to “help family violence and sexual assault services meet the anticipated rise in demand”.

“International experience has demonstrated that we should expect a spike in demand at this point in time,” Ms Williams said.

Ms Birchall praised the Victorian Government for their proactive and flexible approach to provide “additional funds to specialist family violence services, to meet the needs both now and over the coming months”.

Organisations are having to “rapidly move to providing their services remotely” to help vulnerable people who are looking for immediate help.

A spokesperson from Berry Street has said they continue to provide support to vulnerable families through phone and video conferencing platforms.

“We are very concerned that there are real barriers for victims to access support services,” the spokesperson said.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000.


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