Family, domestic and sexual violence is a major health and welfare issue in Australia and can have lifelong impacts on victims and perpetrators. It can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, but predominantly affects women and children.
Since early 2020, there has been growing concern about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on family, domestic and sexual violence (FDSV). The impacts of a pandemic can be wide-ranging and situational stressors, such as victims and perpetrators spending more time together, or increased financial or economic hardship, can be associated with increased severity or frequency of violence (Nancarrow 2020; Payne et al. 2020).
Pandemics can also affect the ‘responses’ to violence—the actions taken after an incident of violence has occurred. These responses include informal support (such as disclosure to a friend or family) and formal support (such as assistance from police, legal services, health professionals or housing assistance). While data on formal service responses only capture part of the picture, understanding how these services have been affected by the pandemic can shed light on changes in demand for services and possible service gaps.
This report brings together data from a range of national sources to show how service responses to FDSV changed at the onset, and during, the COVID-19 pandemic. The report focuses on data from January to June 2020, to cover the initial period of the pandemic in Australia. While the pandemic is ongoing, observing the changes made in these initial phases can provide insight into how FDSV services respond to shocks. Where available, data from previous years, as well as the latest available, are included to provide additional context to these findings.
This report complements the large body of research on COVID-19 impacts, and also highlights key gaps in service response data. The findings also complement other national reporting on FDSV, such as the AIHW web product, Family, domestic and sexual violence data in Australia, which compiles up-to-date data from a range of sources for timely reporting.