Since this prediction, the correlation between increased domestic violence rates and sustained periods of self-isolation has resonated globally, with figures tripling in China and rising over 30 per cent in France.
NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman recently noted a 75 per cent hike in people Googling ‘domestic violence’ across the state since the first recorded case of the deadly virus.
While shelters across Australia have maintained they’re still open for business, the unique challenges of the pandemic have created a new barrier to victims accessing transport to get to shelters in the first place.
Karen Bentley, National Director of WESNET, tells 9Honey: “Trying to get people fleeing domestic violence to safe spaces when they don’t have a car, train or can’t rely on a friend can be a critical turning point in their safety situation.”
In a bid to transcend the issue, the advocacy group has partnered with private transport service Uber and will provide over 3,000 free rides for people seeking refuge or supplies during the pandemic.
“Not having to rely on public transport or other ways of transport to put themselves at more risk, is so vital,” Bentley explains.
With almost 350 members across the country, WESNET represents a range of shelters and safe houses ensuring victims of domestic violence are protected.
“We’ve had an uptick in clients reaching out to us,” Bentley says, pinpointing the use of “isolation” is one of the “most common tactics in escalating domestic violence situations.”
“Right now we’re forced to isolate ourselves from our friends and family, and it’s creating an unimaginable barrier to accessing safety.
“There are so many women who may believe they can’t actually leave their homes at the moment because of this pandemic, but we want them to know a lift is there and it is ready.”
With a special focus on the role of technology in influencing and combating domestic violence, Bentley stressed access to alternative platforms of communication have made all the difference during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We strongly advocate for women remaining on technology – it provides access to an increasingly online and connected society,” she says.
“Often partners can use technology to perpetuate abuse, but we can’t deny its critical role in helping people connect with services to also escape it.”
With one in three Australian women suffering some form of technology abuse, Bentley suggests the advocacy group’s partnership with Uber has provided a “flexibility” and “discrete, quick form of escape.”
“Giving services the flexibility to use the Uber app to book at any time and have a live view of the car at all times is an additional safety feature which is really important in keeping people safe,” she says.
Bentley says that in addition to the free rides, Uber has also been “pivotal” in providing essential goods and access to appointments for people in crisis.
“Loo paper has gone to people – the service has been really creative in getting things to people in crisis,” she says.
“All this increased access really makes a difference – particularly during coronavirus.”
The move follows Uber’s pledge to provide 10 million free rides and deliveries globally to those who need them most during the pandemic.
Australia currently has 6,738 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
If you or someone you know is impacted by family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.
Women from migrant and refugee backgrounds who are experiencing family or domestic violence can contact inTouch, the Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence on 1800 755 988 or visit intouch.org.au.