Nearly one in 10 women in a relationship with a cohabiting partner has experienced physical or sexual violence in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research has revealed.
According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, between February and May this year, 4.6 per cent of all women who responded to a survey reported experiencing physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner. This number increased to 8.8 per cent for women who have been living with a partner for the previous 12 months.
For women who have experienced domestic violence since the beginning of the pandemic, more than half (53.1 per cent) said the violence has increased in frequency or severity. For one-third of women, it’s been the first time they have experienced violence in their relationship.
Violence isn’t the only aspect of domestic abuse that’s been on the rise since the pandemic began.
More than one in 10 of all Australian women have experienced emotionally abusive, harassing, and controlling behaviours. For women in a cohabiting relationship, a massive one in 5 (22.4 per cent) said they have experienced these behaviours, while 11 per cent have experienced coercive control – meaning they experienced three or more forms of emotionally abusive, harassing and controlling behaviours.
These numbers are terrifying and the study from the Australian Institute of Criminology is the strongest evidence available suggesting domestic abuse has skyrocketed for women in Australia during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research also reveals that a significant portion of women have tried to seek help from police or other services during the pandemic, but there are still many women unable to, due to safety concerns.
This was especially common for women who experience more complex and serious forms of violence and abuse. Over half of women who experienced physical and sexual violence as well as coercive control (from a current or former cohabiting partner) said on at least one occasion, they did not seek help from services due to safety concerns.
According to the researchers at the Australian Institute of Criminology, the drivers of increased domestic abuse are complex, but likely involve some combination of increased time spent at home and financial stressors that have resulted from the COVID-19 fallout.