Now more than ever, it is important to encourage communities and individuals to speak out against violence and abuse.
May is Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month. At Act for Kids, we acknowledge the significant impact that domestic violence has on the safety and wellbeing of children and their families.
During times of pandemics, natural disasters and social hardships, the rates of domestic violence increase substantially. It is more than likely some families will be significantly impacted by violence during COVID-19 – even if a pattern of violence and control was absent before the pandemic. People are losing jobs, unable to access supports, and children are home due to school closures. We will see housing issues, child safety concerns, increases in substance use and mental health concerns due to the multiple stressors and anxieties created by COVID-19. These issues do not cause a parent to become controlling and abusive, but they certainly make the abuse and control worse.
People who engage in a pattern of violence – who isolate their family, make parenting choices designed to hurt, punish and frighten their partner and children, are likely to capitalise on an opportunity to further isolate and control. Right now, when violence occurs in a home, if neighbours are close, they may hear or see violence and feel it’s none of their business. They may believe the family is just under a lot of stress, that the children are tough to manage and are at home all day.
“Violence thrives in silence and secrecy, and abusers are often expert at managing their public appearance,” said Ross Tyler, Act for Kids Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Practitioner.
Within our communities, we all have a responsibility to shine a light on abuse, violence and controlling behaviours – to not normalise it and put it down to stress related to the current crisis.
Advice for Those Affected by DFV During COVID-19
It is likely that COVID-19 will culminate in some abusers behaving in unanticipated ways, as the pandemic creates new opportunities and/or fewer opportunities to coerce and control. Dealing with violence in the context of COVID-19 is highly contextual. For example, it may be very difficult for someone to safely contact a support service if the abusive partner and children are in the home fulltime, if the abuser is the only adult who speaks English, or if the abuser acts as carer for the other parent. Dealing with violence in the context of COVID-19 will be varied and contextualised for most parents.
- Develop a safety plan. A safety plan is very important when coercive control is occurring – it is even more important now. If possible, it may be helpful to engage with your local or regional domestic violence service to discuss safety and formulate a plan. This plan is likely to need regular reviews and variations due to abusers often using a range of different tactics to coerce and control.
- If you are concerned about parenting orders and contact during this time, seek legal advice and/or or contact the Federal District Court to make enquiries.
- Explore options around safety for yourself and your children – what options are no longer available and what new ones have presented themselves? For example, a neighbour who is now working from home.
- Go with your gut! What is most important is for non-offending parents to ‘go with their gut’. They have often been making excellent decisions around managing the safety and wellbeing of their children. As adults, they are often best placed to assess risk and threats. If a parent is frightened or anxious – enact the safety plan. If it involves calling Police, do so immediately.
Act for Kids seeks to end violence in families and promote safer communities for all.
Sadly, a significant number of families we work with at Act for Kids have experienced, or are living with, domestic and family violence (DFV), and we recognise the detrimental and ongoing impact DFV has on children and families.
Our Intensive Family Support program provides support for parents and family members who may be feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope.
We provide a child-centred, whole family approach when supporting families experiencing DFV with safe, responsible, and respectful practice. Our services provide support and assistance to children and young people, the non-abusive parent and, when safe to do so, the offending parent.
In cases where the offending parent is still living with or in regular contact with the family, we recognise that the greatest opportunity to improve outcomes for these families can occur when the offending parent is engaged in appropriate evidenced-based supports and committed to changing their behaviours.
If you or anyone you know needs help reach out:
Domestic Violence Helplines
To learn more about our Intensive Family Support Program, click here.
To find out what you can do in your community to support Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month, click here.
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