Police reported family violence incidents 2019-2020
The number of police recorded family violence incidents was
higher in every month in 2020 compared to 2019.
During the height of Victorian lockdowns between April and
September 2020, police recorded family violence incidents
increased on average by 10 percent each month.
There were 4,138 more family violence incidents recorded
during this time than in the same time period in 2019.
Monthly percentage increase in police reported family violence incidents 2019-2020
Monthly police reported family violence incidents 2019-2020
The lockdowns together with situational stresses, such as job loss, related to the pandemic have created the perfect storm and heightened the frequency and severity of family violence in Victoria.
The intensified experiences of family violence observed by practitioners during the lockdown are reflected in Victoria Police family violence data. Family violence offending and victimisation increased during the 2020 lockdowns.
During the Victorian lockdowns between 1 April to 30 September 2020, 34,445 people perpetrated at least one act of police reported family violence. An increase of 9 percent (2,845 people) from the same period in 2019.
Not only are women experiencing
heightened family violence during
the pandemic but some women
are disclosing violence to police
for the first time.
36,152 people experienced at least one incident of police reported family violence between 1 April to 30 September 2020. This was an increase of 9 percent (2,971 people) from the same period in 2019.
Number of police reported family violence incidents per unique victim 2019-2020
The actual rate of violence during
COVID-19 is likely to be higher than
official police figures as many acts of
family violence go unreported to police.
Practitioners responding to family violence during the first Victorian lockdown reported a 42% increase in women reporting family violence for the first time.
Perpetrators are using the COVID-19 restrictions and threat
of COVID-19 infection to gain access to women’s homes and
restrict their movements.
Some separated partners used shared care arrangements to
coerce women to sharing residences during the lockdowns.
Confined to homes with their abusers, women have reduced
access to support. For those wanting to seek help there is no
guarantee of privacy in the home.
During the lockdowns from April to September 2020, women’s experiences of violence at the hands of current and former partners and family members increased.
Police reported incidents involving family violence perpetrated against women by current/former partners and family members increased.
Perpetrators of police reported family violence against women during lockdowns
With people confined to homes and many extended families sheltering together, Victoria has seen an increase in elder abuse.
Police recorded family violence incidents involving women aged 60 and over increased in nearly every month of 2020 compared to 2019.
Police reported family violence against women aged 60 and over
The number of children experiencing police recorded family violence incidents was higher in every month in 2020 compared to 2019. When the lockdowns were in place from April to September 2020, the number of children witnessing police reported family violence increased over 9% compared to the same time period in 2019.
Monthly percentage increase in the number of children witnessing police recorded family violence 2019-2020
The number of family violence victims where isolation and mental health were identified as risk factors by Victoria Police was higher in every month of lockdown in 2020 compared to the same months in 2019.
Number of family violence victims where police identified isolation as a risk factor, 2019/2020
Number of family violence victims where police identified mental health as a risk factor, 2019/2020
Practitioners providing family violence support are on the frontlines of Victoria’s shadow pandemic; reporting stress and burnout responding to family violence during this period of high demand.
Working from home and talking about highly emotional and traumatic situations from their living rooms and sometimes their bedrooms has made maintaining professional and personal boundaries challenging and eroded strategies put in place to safeguard practitioner wellbeing and self-care practices.
During the 2020 COVID restrictions, Victorian women were hospitalised and arrived at emergency departments as a consequence of family violence at higher rates than before the pandemic.
Family violence related Emergency Department presentations by gender
Family violence related hospital admissions by gender
Family violence related ED presentations by gender
Family violence related hospital admission by gender
As Victoria entered Stage 4 restrictions in July 2020, hospital admissions for assault by a spouse or domestic partner increased by 80% compared to July 2019.
Emergency Department presentations for neglect, maltreatment and assault by current or former intimate partner
Hospital admissions for assault by a spouse or partner
Throughout 2020 presentations to emergency departments due to family violence increased by an average of 10% each month compared to 2019.
Since this time family violence prevalence rates have remained stubbornly unchanged. At least one woman a week continues to be murdered by a current or former partner.
Family violence remains the leading cause of homelessness for women and children in Australia. Prior to the pandemic, on average 9,120 women a year become homeless in Australia after leaving a violent home and not being able to secure safe long-term housing.
While the demand for family violence support and homelessness services has continued to increase during the pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions on movement have made it harder to access critical support.
With privacy and confidentiality in homes during lockdowns not guaranteed, assessing people’s risk and safety remotely has been challenging.
Governments must urgently act to address Australia’s family violence crisis and support the mental health and wellbeing of practitioners providing these vital services to the Australian community.
Meaningful investment is required to end this national crisis and keep women and children safe and free from violence.