Horrific domestic violence flare-ups emerge after floods
CASES of domestic violence abusers making off with family emergency payments or refusing to leave an ex-partner's home after being granted shelter have emerged after Townsville's catastrophic floods.
The ripple effect of the historic weather event has also caused a backlog in court and welfare systems designed to help victims.
North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service co-ordinator Pauline Woodbridge said the office had seen an increase in the number of protection order applications in recent weeks as victims are able to again address domestic violence issues.
"As the days have gone on, there have been other things emerging such as quite a lot of families where there is domestic violence, were eligible for the $1000 crisis payments," she said.
"We heard many women tell us the abusers took the $1000 and disappeared for a couple of days.
"Some of the families that were already separated had to go back to live with the ex-partner or the ex-abuser and then he would take the money for example.
"We are now in a period where people are coming forward to get their domestic violence issues dealt with, things like where an ex-partner came and moved in because his place was flooded and now they can't get him to leave and he's being abusive."
Ms Woodbridge said Townsville's specialist domestic violence court, forced to close for about ten days, had also been affected.
It is understood more than 45 domestic violence protection order applications were listed in the specialist court yesterday, with 30 more listed for tomorrow and more than 60 on Friday.
The usual number according to NQDVRS is about 120 protection order application listings a week.
Ms Woodbridge said the system backlog has also affected crisis accommodation with Townsville's shelters unable to accept women fleeing violence from outside the region.
"The women's shelters, if they get a vacancy it is needed for someone local," she said.
"And where women would normally leave the shelter after a certain period of time, they can't leave because they have nowhere to go."
Official Queensland Police statistics revealed breach of domestic violence order offences hit a near record high of 350 offences in January but fell to 198 offences in February.
January was the fourth month in a row that the number of breach of domestic violence order offences increased. There were 268 offences of this type in December, 227 in November and 223 in October.
Townsville Police domestic and family violence co-ordinator Sergeant Elise Feltham said the stress of the floods would undoubtedly have an impact on families.
"We are aware of this and will always respond at times of crisis and investigate incidents fully, with the intention of keeping a victim safe and holding a perpetrator of violence accountable," she said.
James Cook University senior lecturer Dr Ann Carrington said research shows natural disasters could be a trigger for a spike in domestic violence.
"I guess it's important to recognise though that it doesn't create domestic violence as such, but the change in circumstances would increase the intensity, or increase the experience in any relationship that already had domestic violence within it," she said.
"Sometimes it's not actually an increase but through overcrowding people are noticing it because it's usually behind closed doors."