While Australia continues to grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the nation’s silent killer has reached alarming numbers. Case numbers of domestic violence have soared amid lockdowns, leading to what has been titled the “worst year” for family violence—with support services struggling to help those in need.
According to the Counting Dead Women project by anti-sexism group Destroy the Joint, which counts all female victims of violence, domestic or otherwise, at least 48 women have died in Australia in 2020.
Speaking to The Guardian, Hayley Foster, chief executive of Women’s Safety, said she has been shocked by the increased case numbers she’s witnessed this year.
“2020 will be remembered as the worst year for domestic violence that any of us who are in the sector now have ever experienced,” she told the publication.
“There [have been] just so many more strangulation cases, so many threats to kill, so many more serious head injuries, and sexual assaults [have been] going through the roof,” she says.
Throughout the pandemic, states and territories have reported increases in the number and severity of domestic violence cases.
According to a survey by Monash University, in Victoria, over 50 per cent of domestic violence workers have reported an increase in the frequency of domestic violence since the initial stages of the pandemic.
A survey released earlier this year by the Australian Institute of Criminology revealed more than half of women who had experienced physical or sexual violence before the COVID-19 crisis said the violence had become more frequent or severe since the start of the pandemic.
The sad truth is, one in six Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner, according to a 2019 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare—a number that has only increased over the last twelve months.
The recent reports, coupled with the deaths of over 48 women this year, prove that our attitudes towards women are worlds behind. We, unfortunately, have a long way to go before this country starts to acknowledge the other terrifying pandemic that continues to kill so many each year.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800-RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.