News

Seeking safety during COVID-19

Family Violence is against the law. It is not caused by random acts of anger. It is a choice of an individual to exert power and/or control over another. There are services across Gippsland and the state which can support you seeking safety from family violence during COVID-19. Get Help here

You are not alone

All Family Violence Response Services will continue to operate throughout this pandemic and Victoria Police will still attend calls and enter the house, even if there is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19. Seek help here.

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. There is support for you. Call safe steps on 1800 015 188 or a Gippsland family violence agency listed  here.

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 familyYou 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

When you call safe steps a family violence crisis specialist will help you understand you and your children’s and pet’s family violence risks and explore options to increase your safety – regardless of whether you want to stay in the relationship or leave. In addition to safety planning, we are also able to arrange safety measures that enable you to stay safe at home (if appropriate) or access crisis accommodation in the case of imminent high risk.

Family violence is never your fault. If you are experiencing or afraid of family violence, you can call safe steps any time of the day or night on 1800 015 188. 

If you cannot safely call the 24/7 phone line, you can email safesteps@safesteps.org.au and a family violence crisis specialist will reply to you as soon as possible.

Also safe steps can provide an interpreter service or access to specialist support for people with disabilities. If you have been threatened or you are fearful for yourself, a child or a family member – call 000.

As a part of the 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.

You can find out more about calling safe steps here.

Making a call 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 safesteps@safesteps.org.au and a family violence crisis specialist will contact you as soon as possible

Other ways to look after yourself during COVID-19

Alongside calling safe steps or a Gippsland family violence agency listed here, 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 1800RESPECT here.

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 out more here.

In case of emergency – call 000. 

(We kindly acknowledge safe steps for their indepth COVID-19 safety planning guide)