Sexual assaults increase during pandemic lockdown

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has released its statistics for the second quarter ending June 2020 which showed that recorded incidents of break ins, car theft and retail theft were significantly interrupted by the pandemic response.

The only major exception to the reduction in offences is reported sexual assaults which rose 9.4% year-on-year to June 2020, similar to the upward trend reported in the previous quarterly report.

Sexual assault increased in two of the 15 Sydney Statistical Areas:

Blacktown (up 24.4%, or 71 additional incidents)
Sutherland (up 59.2%, or 45 additional incidents)

Two Sydney regions had a significant increase in recorded rates of domestic assault in the past two years:
Baulkham Hills & Hawkesbury (up 32.7%, or 123 additional incidents),
Parramatta (up 9.9% or 175 additional incidents)

Regional NSW saw significant upward trends in recorded rates of sexual assault in three of the 13 statistical areas:
Hunter Valley excluding Newcastle (up 19.7% or 59 additional incidents),
Illawarra (up 33.7% or 66 additional incidents), and:
Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven (up 63.9% or 62 additional incidents).

Domestic violence related assault increased in the Murray (up 25.1% or 127 additional incidents)

Commenting on the findings, Executive Director of BOCSAR, Jackie Fitzgerald, said the continuing increase in reported sexual assaults was a worrying trend. “It appears that at least some of the increase in sexual assault is related to an increase in secondary and mandatory reporting of child sexual assault. We will continue to closely monitor trends in this offence.”

BOSCAR media release, 2/09/20:

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.