This morning I felt relief for the first time in weeks. What caused this momentary reprieve? The Australian Government are injecting $1.1 billion to mental health and Domestic Violence (DV) services. There has been endless media coverage regarding the impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on mental health, however until today I had not seen or heard the actual words Domestic Violence come from a single leader’s mouth. It flawed me as prior to COVID-19 hitting, our DV situation had been termed a national emergency as one Australian woman is killed every week by her current or former partner.
There was sweeping outrage when the beautiful Hannah Clarke and her three children were killed by Robert Baxter in February this year. The Australian public were horrified that an incident of such sickening brutality could occur in this “picture perfect” family. Hannah had done everything “right”. She planned her escape, had a civil protection order in place, reported breaches of the order, had asked for help and still she was met with this tragic ending. Why? Because DV is centered around power imbalance. When a woman leaves, the perpetrator has lost all forms of control and their risk of harm significantly escalates. 40% of women who leave an abusive relationship continue to experience violence from their partner.
I cringe when I see well meaning messages about how this time will enable families to be together in a way that we have not experienced in years. For some, yes. I am one of the lucky ones, my dining table is covered in paintings, puzzles and board games but I know this is not the case for every household. Close the schools, sure I get it however lets at least acknowledge that there are now a shit load of vulnerable women and children where playgroups, Children’s Centre’s and Schools were their only external link to the outside world and this has just been taken away.
25% of women who have experienced abuse from a partner report the first incident occurred whilst pregnant. Understandably, face to face Maternal and Child Health services have significantly decreased or ceased all together. New Mum’s can still access support remotely however you can’t see an abusive partner standing over a woman monitoring her every word on the phone like you can during a home visit. The remote access will only occur if the woman has access to a phone and in my experience, the phone is usually the first thing to be destroyed. It limits outside contact and is another example of power imbalance. I kid you not, I once supported a woman develop a safety plan where we supplied a phone for her to hide in the ceiling of the room that her partner would lock her.
The point I am trying to make is that our current climate is a breeding ground for DV and today is a step in the right right direction of acknowledging this. Isolation on top of the leading risk factors of being part of an abusive relationship such as low socio-economic status, substance abuse and high emotional stress have never been so prominent. Google has reported a 75% increase in DV related searches. 75%! In every group of 10 women, seven and a half of them are looking for information regarding DV; that is fucking terrifying.
$1.1 billion dollars is a lot of money but will it be enough? Probably not but it is a start. You can see the break down of how the funds will be distributed here.
I don’t have the answers to how we deal with this because as I mentioned, I completely understand why all of these measures have been put in place. I have a medically compromised 16 month old, trust me I get why we need to social distance ourselves. However now more than ever we need to keep having discussions like this so our most vulnerable women and children do not fall through the cracks. DV does not discriminate so I beg you, please keep finding ways to check in with your girlfriends because right now connection and community have never been so important.
Love Hayley xx
If you or anyone you know is experiencing Domestic Violence here are a list of services and resources you can access for help:
1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732 – https://www.1800respect.org.au/
Lifeline – 13 11 14 – https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636 – https://www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/contact-us
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