By Nicole Vanderkroef, Bupa Counsellor.

Domestic and family violence can happen to anyone at any time and is devastating for families and communities. However as the current COVID-19 pandemic continues, more people could face increased threats to their safety because of the pressure social isolation and job loss can put on a family, and people may not have the space they need to make safety plans. It may also place financial strain on people as the impact of job losses continues, this means people might not have access to the money needed to build a new life or their safety may be more limited.

To protect people against the threat of domestic violence, The Australian Government has committed an initial $150 million to support Australians experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence due to the impact of COVID-19. This includes Counselling support for families affected by, or at risk of experiencing, domestic and family violence, hotline services and a new public communication campaign.

These initiatives are crucial for minimising and managing the incidence of domestic violence during this difficult time, however as a society we all have a role to play. If you feel someone you know could be in a vulnerable position the advice below will provide simple and proactive support.

Nicole Vanderkroef, is a registered counsellor at Bupa Australia.

1. Listen without judgement: How you respond to someone who has been impacted by violence can make a big difference to their recovery. If someone discloses violence to you, they are showing enormous trust in you. It is important to show respect and maintain their trust and not force them into any action. Sometimes just listening to someone and acknowledging their experience is enough.

2. Safety first: When talking about options with someone at risk safety must be the main priority and the person involved must feel in control of the situation and what happens next. Unless you have a qualification, you can’t offer counselling but you can let them know about local services and offer them practical support on matters such as accommodation or finances.

3. Help them make a plan: If you know someone experiencing family and domestic violence, you can help them make a simple safety plan in collaboration with a support service which can link them to professional and government support avenues. Don’t rely on a single approach as every person has different needs.

If you know someone experiencing family and domestic violence, you can help them make a simple safety plan in collaboration with a support service which can link them to professional and government support avenues.

4. Ensure children can access help: In any situation involving family violence, children are the most vulnerable. Ensuring they have access to safe assistance through trusted family members, law enforcement or counselling services such as Kids Helpline is important if parents or guardians are not providing a safe space.

5. Don’t wait until it’s too late: If a situation is escalating, ensure professional support is called for promptly.

Contact:

In an emergency, 000 (Australia) or 111 (New Zealand) 
1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732 (Australia) or Women’s Refuge Crisisline: 0800 733 843 (New Zealand) 
Lifeline: 13 11 14 (Australia) or 0800 543 354 (New Zealand) 
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (Australia) or Kidsline: 0800 54 37 54 (New Zealand)