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Our Watch: Lockdown in Victoria, preparing for a ‘second wave’ of violence against women

July 13, 2020 / Our Watch media team

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Our Watch is urging governments and the community to remain vigilant to a ‘second wave’ of increased domestic violence, and to remain committed to preventing violence before it starts, as thousands of Melbourne and Mitchell shire residents endure a new six-week lockdown period.

Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said that the COVID-19 crisis and lockdowns did not ‘cause’ violence against women, and the stress of this situation should never be an excuse for men’s violence. Evidence showed that men who chose to use violence, including coercive control against women at this time, were those who already held disrespectful views about women. The crisis is amplifying existing views rather than causing them.

But emerging research from the first ‘stay at home’ orders suggests that the pandemic has led to an recent increase in violence, both within Victoria and nationally, and that it is also exacerbating the underlying gender inequalities that drive this violence in the first place.

An Australian Institute of Criminology survey out today reveals more than half of women who had experienced physical or sexual violence before the pandemic reported violence becoming more frequent or severe.

“We’re deeply concerned for women and their children in the restricted areas in Victoria,” Ms Kinnersly said.

“Research from Monash University also confirms AIC’s findings, showing that lockdowns do result in an increase in women being abused by a partner or ex-partner, and in men using different and sometimes more severe forms of violence.”

Ms Kinnersly said violence against women was not just happening in homes, but also online, with Australia’s eSafety Commissioner reporting more than 1,000 reports of image-based abuse between March and May – an increase of 210 per cent.

“We know that this behaviour is underpinned by a disrespect for women and a belief that women are not equal and that men have a right to power and control over them.” she said.

Ms Kinnersly also stated the ‘hard lockdowns’ of Melbourne public housing to control virus outbreaks had also brought concerns for any women who may be living in violent or abusive situations in those apartments, particularly as one tower would remain in hard lockdown for a second week.

“Public housing has a large population of women who we know experience higher rates of violence and socio-economic disadvantage, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women with disabilities and migrant and refugee women.

“This hard lockdown has shone a light on the inequalities faced by particular women in our society, and the need for greater attention to these issues, not just now, but in the longer term.

“During this pandemic, response and crisis services have been working around the clock to support the immediate safety of women. We are grateful for their commitment and dedication in helping our communities. We must continue to be adaptive and responsive to the changing environment to ensure women can get the services they need.

“And as we begin to understand the longer-term impacts of this crisis on women, we must also continue our work for long-term prevention of violence.

“We must embed gender analysis into our economic response to this crisis and continue to normalise and advance gender equality right across our society.

Ms Kinnersly urged individuals, workplaces, schools and governments to all play their part to keep the safety of women as a top priority.

“If you are concerned about your own safety, or a neighbour’s or a friend’s, do ring 1800 RESPECT or 000. We must keep an eye out for each other, while also looking ahead towards a future where women and their children can live free from violence.

“This crisis can be a wake-up call, and an opportunity to ensure we all continue to increase our efforts to create a safer world where all women are respected and treated equally.”

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.”

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 structures, norms and practices that lead to violence against women and children.

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