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Concerning violence against women during COVID-19 and a reminder to media

May 8, 2020 / Our Watch media team

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Our Watch is deeply concerned by the number of women killed by a partner or ex-partner in the past week, which has brought the national tally for this year to 16, according to Destroy the Joint.

A friend of Hannah Clarke reacts at a makeshift shrine.
A friend of Hannah Clarke reacts at a makeshift shrine. Hannah Clarke was the eighth woman this year to die of violence against women. Image by AAP: Dan Peled sourced via ABC News. 

In the past week, the murders of Ellie Price in South Melbourne, 18-year-old Britney Watson, an Aboriginal woman in Newman, WA, and 69-year-old Erlinda Songcuan in Woodcroft, NSW, are a devastating reminder of the ongoing epidemic of violence against women in Australia.

Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said that while road deaths and traffic incidents had decreased during COVID-19, it appeared that the opposite may be true for incidents of violence against women, particularly for those isolated at home with their perpetrators.

And as COVID-19 restrictions ease, there was concern numbers may increase further.

“Since March, Google searches on domestic violence have increased by 75 per cent and the Family Court has reported an increase up to 40 per cent in urgent applications,” Ms Kinnersly said

Ms Kinnersly acknowledged the positive steps that all Australian governments had taken, with additional response funding to help service providers address a spike in demand for services and crisis accommodation, but said the long-term work to prevent violence against women must not slip from the national agenda during this crisis.

“These recent tragic murders are one horrifying part of a huge spectrum of violence against women in our society,” Ms Kinnersly said. “We know that while this violence takes many forms, the underlying driver is gender inequality.

“We also know that crises tend to disproportionately affect women, often lead to increases in violence against them, and exacerbate existing gender inequalities across society.”

Ms Kinnersly said that both immediate response and long-term prevention were needed for Australia to combat the current COVID-19 crisis and address the ongoing national emergency of violence against women and their children.

“If we are not considered, our response to COVID-19 could unintentionally reverse decades of progress towards gender equality,” Ms Kinnersly said. “Now more than ever, governments, workplaces, and communities must remain committed to this goal.”

She also strongly urges journalists reporting on these tragedies and similar stories to do it in a way that informs, educates, and contributes usefully to a public dialogue about the issue of violence against women. “We ask the Australian media to utilise the freely available Our Watch guidelines when covering stories that involve violence against women and remind media of the importance of helping readers, listeners and viewers understand the issue by contextualising the story with statistics,” Ms Kinnersly said.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence you can contact the following services:

In an emergency, call 000.

Media contact

Shannon McKeogh, Senior Media and Communications Advisor (shannon.mckeogh@ourwatch.org.au or 0412 612 039 or media@ourwatch.org.au)

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

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

Pictured: A women visits a memorial for Hannah Clarke. According to Destroy the Joint, on 19 February, Hannah Clarke (31) became the eighth woman this year to die of violence against women. Image by AAP: Dan Peled sourced via ABC News

About Our Watch

Our Watch is a national leader in Australia’s work to stop violence against women and their children before it starts. The organisation was created to drive nation-wide change in the practices, norms and structures that lead to violence against women and children.

Find out more about our work to end violence against women in Australia.

The evidence
Woman holding baby.