You are not alone: Seeking safety from family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic
Like most people across Victoria, your life has probably changed in response to the coronavirus outbreak and the public health measures designed to stop it spreading. These changes could include a loss of family income, being required to stay home or in quarantine, or struggling with a heightened sense of fear and uncertainty.
The behaviour of your partner or family members might also have changed or escalated. If this behaviour makes you fear for your safety – or the safety of another person – it is likely to be a form of family violence.
If you are experiencing family violence, we know it may be more difficult for you to reach out during COVID-19. safe steps is here and waiting for you to contact us.
Family violence is any threatening, coercive, dominating or abusive behaviour that occurs between people in a family, domestic or intimate relationship, or former intimate relationship, that causes the person experiencing the behaviour to feel fear. Family violence can come in many forms such as physical and sexual violence, and often also includes controlling and coercive behaviours.
We understand that isolation at home with a person who uses violence will make things more difficult or frightening for you and your children, including accessing support. They may use social distancing health measures in relation to COVID-19 to increase their controlling behaviour. This might include:
- Stopping you from leaving the house or visiting the doctor
- Increased surveillance, such as monitoring handwashing
- Controlling who you speak to by phone or online
Remember – you have the right to feel safe, access medical support and communicate with friends and family. You have the right to leave the house*.
*For reliable, up to date information about social distancing and other public health measures in response to COVID-19, visit the Department of Health and Human Services website here. If someone is forcing you to go beyond these measures, it may be family violence.
How safe steps can help you
safe steps Family Violence Response Centre is Victoria’s statewide first response service for those experiencing family violence or concerned about another experiencing family violence. We operate 24/7, 356 days a year.
Whatever your situation, our helpline will support you to understand your family violence risks, explore safety options and make appropriate and timely referrals to services that exist to meet your specific and individual needs. Additional supports are available for people with disabilities and people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
- Phone: 1800 015 188
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also chat to us online between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
As a part of our COVID-19 service response, you will be asked some additional questions about any recent travel or contact with confirmed cases. Your answers will ensure we provide you with a responsible and appropriate service to meet your individual needs.
How to call safe steps if you are isolated at home
It’s important that you feel safe enough to call us, as perpetrators of family violence may escalate their behaviour suddenly if they find out you are reaching out for help. If you are worried that your call will be overheard or interrupted, you can:
- Create a plausible reason to leave the house, such as getting petrol, groceries or medication and call while you are out. Unless you are in medical quarantine because you are sick, you are allowed to leave your house for these essential items, even under lockdown
- Wait for the perpetrator to fall asleep before calling
- Call from a room with an exit, a door that locks, that does not contain knives or other weapons
- Call from the bathroom, while the shower is running
- Email email@example.com and a family violence crisis specialist will contact you as soon as possible
- If it is between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, you can chat to us online
Other ways to look after yourself during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
Alongside calling safe steps, there are other actions you can take to increase your safety:
- Contact trusted family and friends and set up a code word that you can text them in case you need them to call 000 on your behalf.
- If you are afraid of being in self-isolation with a perpetrator, is it possible to stay with family or friends? How soon can you make plans to leave?
- If you are entering into self-isolation with a perpetrator who you think may withhold necessary items from you, you could hide a supply of medications, prescriptions, cash and a small amount of food. (If you fear that the perpetrator will react violently if they find these supplies, do not do this.)
- If you have a disability, it can be helpful to take the contact details of your disability support services with you.
- While people are encouraged to stay at home, you may feel isolated from your friends and family. Try to maintain social connections online or over the phone, if it is safe to do so.
- If you have to flee, plan how you would do so. Leave while the perpetrator is out of the house if possible. Know the location of your nearest police station or hospital and go there if you need to.
Keep spare keys and important documents in a place that is easy to access quickly.
Stay up to date with the official measures for managing COVID-19 via the DHHS website here.
For additional information and tips around safety planning visit 1800 RESPECT here.
Downloading the COVIDSafe App
After reviewing the Australian Government’s COVIDSafe App, the Women’s Services Network (WESNET) has this advice for victim-survivors of family violence:
“Our advice…is that if you need to keep who you meet with private and your abuser has physical access to your phone or you suspect the abuser has already put some kind of surveillance app (spyware or stalkerware) on your smartphone it may not be safe for you to download the COVIDSafe App.
If you wish to download the App for public health reasons, but wish to keep meetings secret from your abuser, you may wish to leave your phone at a safe distance from those you are meeting with or consider leaving it behind if it is safe to do so.”
Are you worried that someone you know is at risk of family violence?
If you are worried someone you know or care about is experiencing family violence, there may be things you can do to help. Find our more here.
In case of emergency – call 000.
For updates on our service delivery during COVID-19 visit our Coronavirus Update page.