Virus violence spike

Holly ThompsonSound Telegraph
Sen. Const. Colette Gardiner, Sen. Const. Rich Barnes, Sgt Jo Edwards and Sen. Sgt Nevlle Beard discuss strategies to increase response to family violence.
Camera IconSen. Const. Colette Gardiner, Sen. Const. Rich Barnes, Sgt Jo Edwards and Sen. Sgt Nevlle Beard discuss strategies to increase response to family violence. Credit: Supplied

Domestic violence has spiked in Rockingham since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and authorities fear numbers will continue to rise as a result of isolation measures.

A reported 5 per cent increase in family violence cases across the metropolitan area since the start of the crisis has prompted authorities to reassure victims there is help at hand.

According to WA Police, family assaults in the outer metropolitan suburbs are higher in general than other metropolitan areas, with Rockingham sitting at more than 80 reported offences in the 2019-20 period. Rockingham Police Station officer-in-charge Sen. Sgt Neville Beard said it was tough to predict the way COVID-19 would continue to affect the community.

“We have never experienced this type of thing before any-where, but with people spending more time at home there is a risk of increased family violence,” he said.

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“It also may have the reverse effect with us as a community coming together to get through this difficult time.

“As the weeks wear on we are preparing to be available for people who experience family violence should the need arise.”

Southern Communities Advocacy Legal Education Service (SCALES) provides free legal services for people experiencing violence across Kwinana and Rockingham.

SCALES managing director Gai Walker said self-isolating could be detrimental to anyone living with an abusive family member.

“We are anticipating an increase in people who need our services and we are prepared for that,” she said.

“At the moment we have seen a slight decline in people reaching out to us and I know other services are reporting something similar, it is definitely concerning.

“It is not necessarily safe for people to make the calls they might do in other circumstances and there is no social interaction, which can lead to others picking up something is wrong.”

Ms Walker said she and other SCALES members were available to chat via telephone on 9550 0400 and could still represent clients in court.

She said she wanted those experiencing family violence to know help would be available throughout the pandemic.

This sentiment was echoed by Lucy Saw Women’s Refuge executive officer Anne Moore, who said they were still taking women in, even if they tested positive for COVID-19.

“People are not really sure if services are operating at the moment due to isolation rules, but we are still quite busy even though numbers are down slightly,” she said.

“If anyone needs crisis accommodation but has been self-isolating, we can make arrangements for them.

“If anyone has tested positive for COVID-19 but needs to get out they still contact us because we are able to support them.”

Rockingham Mandurah Family Violence Unit family violence co-ordinator Sgt Jo Edwards said the community was in unprecedented times, with families under significant pressure from loss of employment, social isolation or anxiety about illness.

“In these trying times these issues are exacerbated, which can often lead to increased use of drugs, alcohol and violence,” she said.

“Children are at home and not visible to the community or at school and victims of family violence are more isolated due to the decrease in contact.

“I am requesting the community call police on 131 444 or 000 should they see their neighbours or friends or family in need of our assistance.

“Our family violence team and our partners continue to work during this period and are wanting to assist those in need.

“This is all of our community and we need to support each other in these difficult times.”

Sen. Sgt Beard said he wanted to remind people they never had to tolerate family violence, even under these new social isolation conditions.

“People don’t have to put up with family violence be it verbal, emotional or physical abuse, regardless of who the perpetrator is; everyone has the right to be safe in their own home,”he said.

“Police will always be available to protect you, you just need to call us. This is our community and our responsibility to make sure we are all safe.”

  • To contact the Lucy Saw Women’s Refuge in Rockingham call 9527 6872.
  • The women’s domestic violence helpline is available on 9223 1188.
  • Men's domestic violence helpline on 1800 000 599.
  • For confidential information, counselling and support on sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse phone 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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