Australian women at greater risk during pandemic lockdown

Like the rest of the world, Australia is reporting a greater risk to women and children of experiencing violence during the global health pandemic.

Confirmation of the effect of government-directed restrictions that include stay-at-home orders, physical distancing, working at home and the closure of number of community services, has been explored in the results of two surveys of Queensland domestic violence practitioners.

The surveys were conducted by the Queensland Domestic Violence Services Network over two 10-day periods in April and May 2020 and surveyed the professional views of domestic violence support workers. The surveys found an increase in:
• client numbers;
• the complexity of client needs;
• in reported controlling behaviour and manipulation;
• reported perpetrator anger/violence allegedly due to reduced income or job loss due to COVID-19; and
• additional pressure and stress on practitioners as a result of the transition to remote work and increased service demand as indicated by increased reporting.

These findings were published in a Monash University report Responding to Queensland’s ‘shadow pandemic’ during the period of COVID-19 restrictions and mirror Victorian research published in June 2020. Publication of the report is intended to increase understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 global health pandemic restrictions on women’s experiences of gender-based violence and practitioners’ experiences supporting women.

In April 2020, the United Nations Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, labelled violence against women the ‘shadow pandemic’ (UN Women, 2020b), recognising the heightened risk to women and children to all forms of gender-based violence. It has been estimated that for every three months the enforced lockdown restrictions continue, an additional 15 million cases of domestic violence will occur worldwide. One of the ongoing issues is that while the risk to women increases while they are confined to their homes, their access to support is reduced.

Pfitzner, N., Fitz-Gibbon, K., Meyer, S., and True, J. (2020). Responding to Queensland’s ‘shadow pandemic’ during the period of COVID-19 restrictions: practitioner views on the nature of and responses to violence against women. Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, Monash University, Victoria, Australia.