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Our Watch statement on the COVID-19 crisis

March 19, 2020 / Patty Kinnersly, CEO

Our Watch shares in the concern for the ongoing wellbeing and safety of our global society in the face COVID-19.

View from above of people walking in a city.

This virus presents an unprecedented challenge for everyone, and comes at a time of already significant natural disaster in Australia.

We know that while crises certainly affect everyone, they also exacerbate existing social inequalities and reinforce disadvantage.

At this time, we have particular concern for women for who home is not safe.

Research has found that there is often a spike in violence against women during major crises and disasters – which have many similar features to the current situation with the devastating spread of COVID-19.

Situations of heightened stress and panic, potential family disruption, social isolation, increased financial pressures, and disruption to people’s usual roles can all compound or exacerbate the underlying conditions that lead to violence.

This is often reflected in the increased demand for domestic violence crisis services at such times.

It is important to note, however, that these kinds of stress-related factors, which can increase the severity and frequency of violence, do not in themselves ‘cause’ or drive violence against women.

We know from the international evidence that violence against women is driven by pervasive gender inequality, which is sustained through structures, norms and practices that unfairly distribute economic, social and political power and resources between women and men.

Disasters disproportionately affect women because they are more likely to be in vulnerable jobs than men, to be underemployed and have less access to financial resources.

In the case of this particular crisis, women in the health sector are the vast majority of those at the higher end of exposure and the lower end of pay.

Notably, because they do the lion’s share of child rearing, they are more likely than their male partners to take time off work to look after children – an issue that will become acute if, for example, schools and childcare facilities are forced to close because of the virus.

All levels of government need to continually listen to sector experts and frontline services that are taking thousands of calls from women in distress.

These services know what extra resources are required for them to run efficiently, and to ensure that the safety of women can continue to be prioritised during this very difficult time.

Meanwhile, Our Watch’s long-term work to advance gender equality and prevent violence against women continues.

Like other organisations across the country, many of our staff are carrying out their work from home.

The 1800RESPECT service will continue, with counsellors available 24/7 on phone and web chat.

If it is an emergency or if someone is in danger, please call 000 immediately.

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash.

Media contact

Saraya Musovic, Senior Media and Communications Advisor (saraya.musovic@ourwatch.org.au or 0448 844 930) 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.”

To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit Media Making Change.

About Our Watch

Our Watch leads 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.