'Call it out': A new campaign to empower bystanders seeing abuse

‘Call it out’: A new campaign to empower bystanders seeing or hearing abuse

family violence

Respect Victoria has launched a new campaign around family violence and COVID-19 restrictions that’s designed to bring all Victorians into the conversation and encourage bystanders to call out abuse.

The Respect Each Other: ‘Call It Out’ campaign asks neighbours, housemates, community members, family members and friends to call out family violence and abuse when they see or hear it. The campaign aims to provide information and support for bystanders to do so safely and constructively.

Respect Victoria says agencies in the state have been receiving far more calls than usual from neighbours and housemates, who are noticing family violence in their home or on their street for the first time. Most say they are unsure what to do.

“The world is experiencing unprecedented challenges directly related to COVID-19. It is most distressing that these challenges combined with physical distancing and isolation can lead to an increase in family violence and violence against women,” Respect Victoria’s Chair, Melanie Eagle said. “How we manage our own behaviour in this time matters. The way we support our family, friends, neighbours and community during this time matters. Together, while we’re flattening the curve, we can educate ourselves about the warning signs of violence and call it out when we see it.”

Respect Victoria’s CEO Tracey Gaudry says family violence can take many forms.

“It can be psychological, emotional, financial, physical, sexual or a combination. We ask the community to join us in rejecting the idea that there’s ever an excuse for family violence, and we want Victorians to know that there is support out there – whether they are at risk of, or experiencing violence, or witness it as a bystander,” Gaudry says. “Through the campaign, Respect Victoria encourages all members of the community to be ‘active bystanders’, by raising awareness around the early warning signs of family violence and to equip people with the skills and autonomy to safely intervene. With Victorians staying at home more often, family, friends and neighbours are uniquely placed to play an active bystander role.”

The campaign is set to run advertising on television, radio, across social media platforms and on Spotify. The ads aim to show that when family violence occurs in homes, children are often present and the exposure can have long-term impacts on their development.

Over the past weeks and months, COVID-19 restrictions designed to halt the spread of the virus have also heightened the risk of family violence and abuse occurring in Australian homes.

Victim-survivors have been forced to share spaces with perpetrators for extended periods of time, against a backdrop of external pressures like job loss, financial uncertainty, reduced social interaction, reduced access to services and child care arrangements.

According to Respect Victoria, Victoria’s Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton recently said 14 per cent of family violence calls made to police in the past month of April were directly related to COVID-19. He said most calls are coming from third parties like neighbours, who are now uniquely placed to play an active bystander role due to stay-at-home restrictions.

Respect Each Other: ‘Call It Out’ is a reminder that now, more than ever, we need to be looking out for each other. By acknowledging the difficulties around staying out home, the campaign pushes the idea that there’s never an excuse for abuse. Even when life is difficult.

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