For many women across the Hunter, the coronavirus pandemic has left them more isolated than ever.
Domestic violence victims, who used to have opportunities to leave home to attend school, work or recreational activities, have been forced to spend more time alone with the perpetrator of abuse.
Carrie’s Place Specialist Domestic Violence Program Manager, Karen McKenzie, says the service has experienced an increase in women requesting help for safety planning to stay at home.
Safety planning is thinking about things you can do to be safer when living with violence or abuse.
“We believe the increase in requests for personal and home safety planning is because women feel this is the only option to manage their safety in this time,” Ms McKenzie says.
“Leaving or relocating is not an option for many women at this time and specialist crisis accommodation has been limited across the region due to COVID-19 health and hygiene considerations.”
She adds that the Hunter Valley Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service (WDVCAS) has not seen an increase in police referral.
“While there is certainly not a drop in police referrals, the fact that there is no significant increase is in contrast to what is being experienced in some WDVCAS areas across the state,” she says.
“We believe this may be due to a reluctance or ability to report to police because of the increased safety risks of being in isolation with the person using violence and having limited opportunity to access their usual support networks.”
She also believes that having limited options for leaving the home or addressing the violence and other financial factors are forcing victims to stay silent.
“Carrie’s Place programs continue to provide essential services to vulnerable members of the community, however, during this time it has become even more vital for people who are accessing the service system for the very first time,” Ms McKenzie says.
She adds it is important for the community to provide support in any way they can.
“The most vital thing community members can do is listen and believe someone who is reaching out for help,” she says.
“It is also important for all community members to say NO to violence and not excuse violence in any form.”
If you or someone you know is at immediate risk, call the police.
If you are not at an immediate risk, Ms McKenzie suggests reaching out to a trusted connection for support or, if it is safe to do so, calling a local domestic violence support service or the national helpline – 1800 RESPECT.