Family Law amid COVID19
Already within a matter of months, COVID-19 has upended the lives of children and families across the globe. School closures and movement restrictions are disrupting children’s routines and support systems. They are also adding new stressors on caregivers who may have to forgo work.
Evidence and what to expect
With this, research has demonstrated that family violence increases after emergency and natural disaster situations such as bushfires, earthquakes and hurricanes. Based on these experiences, we can anticipate that incidences of family violence will also increase during the widespread community outbreak of COVID-19.
Research into experiences of family violence post the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, found that family violence increased due to a tendency for people to revert to strict gender norms during times of natural disaster and uncertainty such as men being the protectors and decision makers and women being the carers. These strict gender norms reduce women’s autonomy and can put them and their children at risk. Research also found that women’s experiences of violence tend to be dismissed or excused more often during times of disaster or emergency with statements such as “He is just stressed.”
Other contributing factors that can increase the risk of family violence and are likely to be factors in the current situation with COVID-19 are increased financial insecurity, employment and housing insecurity and increased and sustained periods of time that families are together due to quarantine. Victims also may have a reduced ability to flee family violence during this time, as well as have reduced access to support and community supports if schools and community services are closed for containment reasons.
It is growing increasingly likely that as the COVID-19 lockdown continues, the stressors of financial insecurity will continue serve as a major catalyst for conflict and stress within a household. Especially in the case of prohibiting domestic violence victims from leaving abusers allowing the abuse control by leveraging a vulnerable person’s financial insecurity. Also with external factors of mass closures, record numbers of people not working or working from home and the tension of the unknown, stress can build and lead to increased incidences of domestic violence.
Risk to Vulnerable People and Warning Signs
Vulnerable people and victims of domestic violence are at a greater risk over this time as abusers use social isolation to gain greater control over the victim. It often begins in subtle ways but grows over time which minimizes any help a victim can access and can have significant physical and mental health impacts. Examples of social isolation include alienation from family and friends; endangered employment; manipulating children against the victim; and eliminating their role in household decision making.
Some warning signs a vulnerable person can look out for during this time include:
- Minimizing or preventing their efforts to secure supplies
- Using social distance as a means to further control and disconnect completely (no social media, phone use, etc.)
- May try to convince that they have the virus, or that someone in the household has the virus and it’s their fault
- Stating that police won’t respond because they are too busy with the public health crisis
- Claiming shelters and helplines aren’t available because “everybody is closed down.”
It is important to reiterate that with ever increasing government-imposed restrictions on daily life – it is still ok to go outside. COVID-19 is spread through people to people contact, so that means you may go out with your pet and go outside to avoid feeling the effects of cabin fever at home. However, please be aware to follow social distancing measures.
Emergency and suport services
1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
24 hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.
Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277
Support groups and counselling on relationships, and for abusive and abused partners.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Lifeline has a national number who can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your State.
Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491
This service from No to Violence offers assistance, information and counselling to help men who have behavioural and relationship concerns.
The Next Step
If you would like to discuss property or any other parenting matters, contact us on 8391 8411 to book a free 30-minute consultation with us to discuss what steps you should take next.