Coping with Domestic Violence During COVID-19

For most of us, being confined to our homes because of the coronavirus is inconvenient. But for survivors of domestic and family abuse, it may be terrifying.

Self-isolation and social distancing measures have many survivors stuck in close quarters with their abuser, isolated from their friends and family. Abusers might be using the coronavirus and related stress as an excuse to use violence – but there is no excuse for domestic abuse.

Here, we give a brief overview of some of the many different forms of domestic and family abuse, and provide some guidance for anyone experiencing abuse in their home.

If you or your children are in immediate danger, please call 000.


Types of Domestic Abuse

There are many types of domestic and family violence, and each one is dangerous and damaging. The signs you’re in an abusive relationship might be less obvious than you think. It can be about controlling your mind as much as it is about hurting you, and it can leave you feeling scared, confused, isolated, and even ashamed.

Generally, abuse doesn’t present as physical violence right away. It might start with an insult or shouting, or being told you can’t go out with your friends.

Here are some of the common forms of domestic abuse:

  • Physical abuse – Hitting, punching, shoving, choking, or using weapons to hurt someone.
  • Sexual abuse – Any touching, kissing, or sexual acts without consent.
  • Emotional and psychological abuse – Controlling what someone can do or say and who they can see/talk to, insults and put-downs, yelling or screaming, treating someone like a servant, threatening to hurt someone or their kids or pets.
  • Financial abuse – Controlling how someone spends their money, taking money or belongings from someone, preventing access to money or benefits, not allowing someone to work or study.
  • Technological abuse – Controlling someone’s use of technology, going through someone’s phone or other device without consent, using technology to control or embarrass someone.
  • Harassment or stalking – Demanding to know someone’s whereabouts at all times, watching or following someone, harassing someone over the internet or phone, tracking someone through GPS or spyware.

If any of these behaviours sound familiar, you might be experiencing domestic abuse. It can help to talk to a friend or family member about your experience to get an outside perspective and determine whether what you’re going through is abuse.


Creating a Safety Plan

A safety plan can help you be prepared in the event you have to leave the house in a hurry. It’s helpful to know in advance how you’ll get out of the environment, where you’ll go, who will be involved, and what you’ll need.

You might like to tell a friend about your situation and organise for them to pick you up or meet you somewhere. Or you could leave your home by taking the bin out and continuing to your friend’s house or your local police station. Rehearse in your head how you might leave so you feel prepared if the time comes.

An emergency bag of essentials is a key part of a safety plan. It might include:

  • Contact numbers
  • Money
  • Keys
  • Medications
  • Clothing
  • Copies of important documents (e.g. passport, licence, Medicare card).

If you have children in the home, you can include them in your safety plan, depending how old they are and their understanding of the situation.

It’s a good idea to talk to someone – like a VCSS counsellor – to determine whether the children need to be included in your plan. You don’t want to put yourself or your children at risk if they feel pressured to share information with the abuser.

If you need help making a safety plan, call VCSS on 1300 139 703.

Learn more about safety planning with this safety planning checklist from 1800RESPECT.


Support for Domestic Abuse

If you’re experiencing any form of domestic and family abuse, help is available 24/7.

VCSS provides free and confidential counselling and support services for anyone impacted by domestic and family violence. You can call 1300 139 703 to make an appointment, or talk to someone online with our live chat, available Mon-Sat 9am-5pm.

If you or your children are in immediate danger, please call 000.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732

DV Connect Womensline: 1800 811 811

DV Connect Mensline: 1800 600 636

Sexual Assault Helpline: 1800 010 120

Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800