Covid an abuse excuse

A FREMANTLE women’s refuge has revealed victims of domestic violence didn’t seek shelter during WA’s Covid-19 shutdown despite WA police reports being at a 10-year high.

Warrawee Women’s Refuge team leader Amber Williams said she also had anecdotal evidence that some perpetrators of domestic violence deliberately used Covid to shield their behaviour.

“We had one client who came just after the restrictions; we asked her if she wanted refuge accommodation and she said ‘no’ and that her partner had told her that refuges were unsafe because of Covid and that if she went into refuge, he’d go to family court and tell them that she had put the children at risk by going into refuge,” Ms Williams said.


Ms Williams said during the lockdown the service saw a drop in referrals.

But WA Police statistics showed the number of reported family assault and threatening behaviour incidents rose significantly. Between July 2019 and June 2020 there were 24,498 police call-outs, compared with just over 22,000 the year before.

Warrawee provides accommodation and support to about 1600 women and children escaping domestic violence every year.

Ms Williams said some women might not have been able to find a safe place during the shutdown to call the refuge, which was forced to adopt teleservices, or men might have been using the situation to manipulate their victims.

The Department of Communities was reluctant to put a figure on how Covid had affected refuges.

It would only say data from its family and domestic violence helpline “suggests that Covid-19 and the restriction had an impact on the number of people seeking help in relation to family and domestic violence in WA”.

Families and domestic violence minister Simone McGurk’s office said other factors may have also influenced the number of reported domestic violence incidences.  

“Some families are still dealing with a range of issues that could exacerbate the conditions in which family and domestic violence typically occurs, including loss of income, stretched financial resources and changes to their social networks. However, it is possible that rises in reports of family violence could also be a result of growing community awareness and confidence in responses to these crimes,” a spokesperson for Ms McGurk said.


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