A new taskforce called Operation Ribbon will keep police in contact with high-risk perpetrators and their victims
Of the approximately 7,000 calls relating to family violence made to Victoria police in the past month, 14% have related to Covid-19, the states deputy police commissioner, Shane Patton, said on Tuesday.
When police attended those incidents they were told by the alleged victim or alleged perpetrator that having to stay at home together had exacerbated animosity. Patton said that while there had not been an increase recorded in the number of assaults, police were preparing for such an outcome, and had already experienced an increase in reporting by third parties.
People are at home and hearing raised voices and the like, he said. Our intelligence tells us its clear we are going to see a spike in family violence offending during this period.
The increased social distancing measures prompted by Covid-19 have led police to launch a new taskforce called Operation Ribbon, which is focused on contacting high-risk perpetrators and their victims. The operation began last week, with police already conducting 106 compliance checks on high-risk perpetrators and 241 checks on victims. The police minister, Lisa Neville, described it as a dedicated, coordinated operation to respond to women and children who are victims of family violence.
There is potential during isolation of an increased risk of family violence, Neville said. Its a very stressful time and people are pushed together for longer periods. Its also about making sure those with a family violence management plan with court orders are checked up on. We want to hold perpetrators to account while checking in on the welfare of known victims.
On Thursday, the Covid-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 will be introduced to state parliament to introduce a range of temporary changes. The bill will extend the time before which interim family violence intervention orders and personal safety intervention orders lapse from 28 days to three months.
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It comes as Womens Safety NSW called for stronger safeguards regarding child living and care arrangements in response to evidence that domestic abusers are using their shared care rights as a tool for further abuse during Covid-19. Its survey of 56 domestic violence workers found more than 40 reported they had already seen an increase in clients who were experiencing issues in relation to child contact.
Some fathers are using the lockdown to refuse to hand over children and some are demanding the children come to their home when the father has flu-like symptoms, a program coordinator told the researchers. A domestic violence court advocacy service worker told researchers that mothers are forced to send children to violent fathers due to family law orders and are unable to vary the orders due to court representative restrictions.
Meanwhile, a trauma surgeon who works in the Northern Territory, Dr Mahiban Thomas, said he had seen a 15% increase in the number of people requiring surgery due to family violence in the past four weeks.
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There is a noticeable recent increase in domestic violence at the Top End, he told Guardian Australia. This is also certainly aligned with the increased abuse of alcohol at home.
Earlier in April, more than 50 womens and gender equity organisations signed a statement calling for state and federal governments to address the increased risk of violence due to the virus.
Expert research conducted in Victoria into the connection between Gender and Disaster has found that family violence incidents spike during and after catastrophic events, the statement said. Women, girls and gender diverse people must be seen, have their voices heard and their needs met.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au