Calls to Macarthur domestic violence services surge

Picture: Shutterstock
Picture: Shutterstock

Being stuck in lockdown is tough, but for some people who are stuck at home with an abusive partner it is even tougher.

Services across greater Sydney are doing their best support families experiencing domestic violence as calls to crisis lines surge.

WILMA Women's Health Centre manager Michelle Mays said the Campbelltown-based service was overwhelmed with women and children needing help to escape domestic and family violence (DFV).

"It is not so much that the number increased, although our statistics show it has, but the counsellors have certainly noticed a surge in the severity of the violence women are reporting," she said.

"Lockdown is an added barrier in leaving violence for women and children and we expect (as happened last year after lockdown) we will see a significant increase once restrictions lift.

"Our front desk workers report that WILMA experienced a substantial increase in calls from women seeking help since late last year, when Sydney started to come out of our first experiences of COVID lockdown.

"I think that many women realised how dangerous and untenable their situation was after having spent time confined with a partner choosing to use violence and abuse to exert control over them.

"Since that period, we have had a steady increase in the numbers of women reaching out, for example, for assistance regarding finding alternative accommodation for themselves and their children."

Ms Mays said most of the women staff were speaking to were looking at ways to keep themselves and their children safer within the home due to ongoing restrictions.

"We know that when women leave violence they are at more risk of harm, this is exacerbated with lockdown as there is less safe housing available, women don't feel safe being out in the community for fear of getting COVID and women cannot easily travel to stay with or visit their support network," she said.

"Clients have also been concerned about travelling to safe places that are out of their LGA for fear of doing the wrong thing.

"Some women have families or support in now restricted areas and are questioning what they could and would do if situations at home escalate and become dangerous for themselves and their children."

Police and Emergency Services minister David Elliott said police were committed to protecting victims and would increase efforts to combat violence in the home following the government's latest stay-at-home order.

"Fleeing a violent or an abusive relationship, or seeking domestic and family violence-related services, is a reasonable excuse to leave your home," Mr Elliott said.

"While officers will continue to protect the community by ensuring the public complies with public health orders, domestic violence victims will also be a paramount concern with police conducting thousands of Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) compliance checks to keep victims safe."

WILMA received a 64 per cent increase in calls for domestic violence support between June 1 and July 29, compared to the same period last year.

"We are not currently offering in-centre face-to-face appointments, however we are contacting clients and utilizing whatever means we can to stay in contact," Ms Mays said.

"In some cases this is near impossible as it as unsafe to contact some clients and they have no space to speak to counsellors or caseworkers.

"Both our DFV counsellor and caseworker have found their regular clients who are still in DFV relationships are not able to attend online or phone appointments. They have however had an increase in crisis calls and are doing more check-in calls to see how clients are coping.

"We are currently offering Zoom counselling, phone counselling, text counselling, more frequent check-ins via phone/text, Zoom groups, 40-minute one-off counselling and contacting clients via Facebook."

WILMA offers a range of services to help women and children in need across Macarthur.

"Last year during COVID we applied for and were successful in securing a 12-month funding for a DFV Counsellor and Caseworker, three days a week, to specifically work with DFV clients," Ms Mays said.

"This funding is due to finish in December 2021 and given the additional lockdowns and our experience after last year's lockdown, that this is the time that women often leave, our hope is that this funding will be extended for at least another 12 months."

To access support from WILMA, call: 4627 2955 or visit: www.wilma.org.au.

Anyone experiencing domestic or family violence should report to police or call:

  • 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
  • NSW Domestic Violence Line (1800 65 64 63)
  • Men's Referral Service (1300 766 491)
  • Link2Home (1800 152 152)
  • Lifeline (13 11 14)

Anyone with information about domestic and family violence incidents is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or nsw.crimestoppers.com.au.

Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.

This story Calls to Macarthur domestic violence services surge first appeared on Wollondilly Advertiser.