Reminder to check on loved ones after rise in Bundy DV cases
CONCERNS have been raised by local shelters that Bundaberg has seen an increase of domestic and family violence incidents this year.
Data shows the 1800RESPECT phone line service has received an increase of calls by 11%, while Mensline has seen a surge by 26% and the Google search engine reported a 75% increase in internet searches relating to support for domestic violence.
Bundaberg's EDON Place Domestic and Family Violence Centre president Edwina Rowan said COVID-19 has presented a new set of challenges for the issue.
"During the pandemic, there have been increased calls to helplines and increased reports of domestic violence," she said.
"We have seen an increase at a local level of applications being made to the court for domestic and family violence protection orders and an increase in the number of charges for breaches of orders."
She said while lockdown has caused stressful home environments to intensify for many families who experience domestic violence, isolation has also limited their ability to access resources and support.
"Locally, it is clear that the increased stressors created by home schooling, social isolation and financial strain have led to a pressure cooker environment resulting in a change to the nature, duration and severity of domestic violence," Ms Rowan said.
"Lockdowns have created situations where perpetrators have increased opportunity for abuse, surveillance, controlling and coercive behaviour.
"We also know that social distancing measures have precluded victims from actively seeking support and face-to-face assistance."
But despite these challenges presented, Ms Rowan said EDON Place has adopted unique and progressive ways to support clients, enact safety plans and provide counselling and refuge.
"This year, more than ever, the EDON Place staff have stood at the coalface - our hardworking dedicated staff have been resilient to the changes and have risen to meet many challenges in capable and clever ways," Ms Rowan said.
"Our staff continued to ensure that women and children were appropriately and safely housed in refuge and our staff continued counselling services for children, women and men including the Responsible and Respectful Choices Men's Group Program.
"The Magistrates' courts also remained open and domestic and family violence matters continued to be heard (and) even when the duty lawyers stopped appearing in person at Court, EDON Place staff continued to attend court and support parties."
Ms Rowan said additional services available through the organisation now includes online services and meetings, allowing victims of domestic violence more ways to access services safely and confidentiality.
Founder of Bundaberg refuge Jerrub Cheryl Stirling said she had also witnessed a spike in women and children seeking emergency accommodation after facing the risk of becoming homeless.
With more than a decade of experience as a counsellor, she said the pandemic may have played a part by creating more stress or causing job loss.
"Statistics show that one woman in Australia is murdered every week by a current partner or former partner - this is not acceptable and the community as a whole need to support Dame Quentin Bryce's Not Now, Not Ever program," Ms Stirling said.
"To me it's (about) educating these people not to accept any abuse or violence and to know or read the red flags that may start off very early in their relationship.
"I have supported people who have said 'I always pick the same type of person' and my reply is always 'you are accepting the same behaviour from your new partner, so break the cycle and say no to this controlling and abusive behaviour.'"
If you suspect someone you know may be in an abusive or violent relationship, it is important to recognise the signs, be supportive and talk without criticism or blame.
Ms Rowan said it takes time, planning, courage and support for many victims to leave the relationship.
"There are ways to safely support someone who you suspect may be in a domestically violent relationship," Ms Rowan said.
"It is important to understand that the decision to end a relationship is a difficult one and there are many reasons that people choose to stay in a relationship."
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic and family violence, please contact DV Connect on 1800 811 811, the DV Connect Men's Line on 1800 600 626, 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
DV Connect has a comprehensive range of resources available on its website, including support services and signs that may indicate someone you know is in an abusive relationship. For more information, visit dvconnect.org