People experiencing family and sexual violence face additional barriers to accessing help. There are many reasons why victim-survivors remain living in an abusive relationship and why they return. These barriers include fear, isolation, financial, housing, not being believed, shame, and embarrassment.
Victim-survivors may feel pressure to not report violence during and after emergency events as they believe that resources may be too stretched, and that other people’s needs are greater than their own.
Evidence suggests that some service providers may encourage victim-survivors of family and sexual violence to tolerate violence until things ‘settle down’. Community members and even family or friends may perceive as violence during/post emergency events as excusable.
These responses compromise the principle that victim-survivors of family and sexual violence and their children always have the right to live free from violence.
- Service providers may be overwhelmed and have reduced capacity, meaning that the victim-survivors may not get the support they need as soon as they need it.
- Support services may be offered in settings such as evacuation/recovery centres but with no privacy, this can be perceived as unsafe for victim-survivors.
- The perception of the victim-survivor that family violence may be insignificant in the context of the emergency event.
Additionally, during an emergency event:
- Victim-survivors experiencing family and sexual violence may be prevented from evacuating by the perpetrator, who sees the event as an opportunity to gain further control of the victim-survivor.
- Victim-survivors experiencing family and sexual violence may be forced to self-isolate (eg due to COVID-19) by the perpetrator, who sees the event as an opportunity to gain further control of the victim-survivor.
- Victim-survivors may be brought back into contact with an abusive ex-partner during an emergency event, for example, at an evacuation/recovery centre, and Family Violence Orders or Police Family Violence Orders may prohibit the perpetrator from being in the same location as the victim-survivor and their children.
Emergency events are not an excuse for using violence.
There are no excuses for family and sexual violence. It is against the law and it is not tolerated.
Gendered lens in recovery
Global and national research has well established that crises have a disproportionate impact on women and girls.
For example, the COVID-19 crisis has created an environment where there is potential for increased stress, family disruption, social isolation, and increased financial pressures. These factors can exacerbate the underlying gender inequalities that lead to violence against women. These kinds of stress-related factors, while they can increase the severity and frequency of violence, do not in themselves cause violence against women.
The tendency is to revert to strict gender norms during times of emergency events and uncertainty such as men being the protectors and decision makers and women being the carers.
This demonstrates a need for gender analysis and lens to be applied for policies during emergency events to uphold the rights of women and girls.
If you or someone you know is impacted by family violence call the Safe at Home Family Violence Response and Referral Line on 1800 633 937.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual violence call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 697 877.
In an emergency, always call 000
To learn more about family and sexual violence in Tasmania and services available, please visit www.safefromviolence.tas.gov.au.