Domestic violence service fears COVID-19 will fuel demand

 

A MACKAY domestic and family violence support service is pushing for more counsellors as it prepares for an influx of incidents due to self-isolation measures.

Mackay Women's Services has been forced to reduce some of its support amid the coronavirus crisis.

Executive director Anne Butcher said while the service's doors remained open, it would only be able to assist face-to-face with urgent cases.

Counselling services are now being offered over the phone.

Dr Butcher said MWS would continue to help women and children in need during these unsettling times.

Domestic violence services are preparing for a huge spike in incidents as women are forced to lock themselves inside the home with their abuser under imposed self-isolation measures.

Mackay Women's Services executive director Dr Anne Butcher.
Mackay Women's Services executive director Dr Anne Butcher.

"In these really stressful times we understand that incidents of domestic and family violence are likely to increase because of people being unable to leave the house or having limited opportunity to interact with others in the community," Dr Butcher said.

"We're noticing that it's still steady in terms of the number of referrals coming to us.

"But we expect the longer this social distancing and self-isolation remains in place, that we're going to see even more incidents of domestic violence coming to our attention."

Due to a recent increase in demand, Dr Butcher said the service reached out to the Department of Families, Youth and Women to request another two domestic violence women's counsellors.

"I'm unsure as to whether we will receive those additional positions," she said.

Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Minister Di Farmer said the safety of domestic violence victims would continue to be her focus as the COVID-19 situation develops.

"I am committed to continue working very closely with domestic violence service providers and stakeholders to protect victims in Queensland and provide the most appropriate response," she said. 

Dr Butcher is also waiting to find out how much of the Federal Government's $150 million boost for domestic violence support would flow to states and frontline services.

"I'm not sure what that funding will mean for us on the ground," she said.

Broken Ballerina Foundation director Jules Thompson said she was worried about how local women and children would have access to support services amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Broken Ballerina Foundation director Jules Thompson.
Broken Ballerina Foundation director Jules Thompson.

"I'm very concerned about the rise of domestic violence incidents and how perpetrators are going to be using (self-isolation) to their advantage," Ms Thompson said.

The not-for-profit organisation has put its plan to build a fully secure emergency crisis accommodation temporarily on hold.

Ms Thompson said the project was unable to meet operational costs to secure a Federal Government grant, and would now need to be re-evaluated.

"We know how badly a safe haven is needed for Mackay, so we really need everyone to get behind our cause," she said.

If you need emergency domestic violence support, the Mackay Women's Centre is open 8.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Or phone the out-of-hours DVhelpline on 1800 811 811.



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