Domestic violence soars during COVID-19 lockdown
Almost 350 women escaped violent partners during COVID-19 lockdown and were helped to find secure housing, new state government figures have revealed.
About 20 per cent more domestic violence victims needed support from the Rent Choice Start Safely program from the end of March to May than pre-COVID rates, with one Sydney woman telling The Sunday Telegraph: "It has saved my life and given me a life."
NSW Prevention for Domestic Violence Minister Mark Speakman said the rental subsidy program was providing the critical support women needed to "have somewhere safe to go".
"Everyone has a right to live a life free from violence and abuse," Mr Speakman said.
"This program is an example of the crucial support available to help victims and their children enter, or remain in secure and affordable housing."
The Start Safely packages include three years rental subsidies and access to extra support services to help with training and jobs.
Domestic violence services had also reported helping more victims during the coronavirus lockdown, Mr Speakman said.
"The police statistics suggest that reported incidents of domestic violence have not increased during the pandemic. but frontline services are telling us that they have seen an increase in the number and complexity of cases that are coming to them," he said.
"The vast majority of us have to understand there are some harrowing cases that are out of sight; domestic and family violence is a notoriously under-reported crime and I think in this pandemic it's been even more underreported because victims can't readily access services if they're at home with their abusers."
Sydney woman "Sharon" moved into a new rental property last month after leaving her abusive partner of more than 20 years.
"I wasn't allowed to talk to anybody, I wasn't allowed to go to the shops by myself, I had my phone and my keycard taken off me. it was a nightmare," she said.
Sharon said the Start Safely program meant she could now "go to sleep at night knowing no one is going to hurt me".
"I just love my life right now, even though I'm alone and I'm sitting in this empty house, it's just way, way better," she said.
"To all of the women out there who are suffering from domestic violence, do not be afraid to ask for help because there is help out there that will end your suffering.
"You just need to get the strength to leave and you can change your life with the help of these services such as the Start Safety program."
NSW Families, Communities and Disability Services Minister Gareth Ward said domestic and family violence was one of the leading causes of homelessness for women and children.
"We are working hard to identify people at risk of homelessness during this challenging time, and are providing them with the support they need to secure housing," Mr Ward said.
*For 24-hour support in Queensland phone DVConnect on 1800 811 811, MensLine on 1800 600 636 or the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
Originally published as Domestic violence soars during COVID-19 lockdown