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Melbourne: You can still leave home to escape family violence

Isolation, shutdown and unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic are putting people at increased risk of violence, Austin Health’s family violence experts are warning.

And they have some important messages that they want to share:

“If you’re experiencing family violence, you can leave the house to seek support and safety,” says Louise Whatmore, Austin Health Family Violence Social Work Senior Clinician.

“Our hospital remains a safe place, and will provide you with support, and a pathway to safety,” she says.

“People may be experiencing an increase or escalation of violence due to COVID,” says Beth Tynan, Specialist Family Violence Advisor (Mental Health Division) at Austin Health.

A number of factors are driving the increase in violence. These include:

  • spending more time at home with violent family members;
  • fewer opportunities to access support;
  • less contact with family, friends and systems (such as schools), and
  • increased stress on families.

Alcohol and substance use and mental health issues may also be impacted by the pandemic, and are known to be risk factors for family violence.

“Despite COVID, all support systems remain in place,” Beth says.

Support in the community is available from Police in an emergency, from safe steps, or for men, from MensLine. Men who are using violence in their relationship can also contact MensLine for support.

Both Safe Steps and MensLine also offer online chat, if making a phone call isn’t an option.

If you need help, the following services are available throughout lockdown:
  • If you are in immediate danger, call 000 and ask for Police
  • Women and children can contact safe steps on 1800 015 188 (24/7) or through live web chat on weekdays between 9am - 9pm at safesteps.org.au/chat
  • Men who are experiencing family violence or who want support to stop using violence in their relationships can contact MensLine at mensline.org.au or call 1300 78 99 78
  • Call 1800RESPECT (24/7) on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au
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