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Summit seeks solutions to troubling spike in domestic violence

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A virtual summit will today discuss how to connect victims with support services, amid worrying increase in violence and abuse during the pandemic-related restrictions.

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About 110 frontline service providers and sector stakeholders are meeting online for a summit promised after the deaths of Brisbane mother Hannah Clarke and her children.

Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer today said the restrictions on public and social activities during the pandemic had put some vulnerable people at even greater risk.

Farmer said Google searches for domestic violence services had increased 75 per cent during the pandemic, yet many people would have limited opportunity to seek help or escape due to being confined at home with their abuser. There were also fears of infection at hotels and refuges.

The Government, according to Farmer, has some potential solutions to “issues like how do we be accessible to victims whose only opportunity to call might be the two minutes that they spend behind a closed door in the toilet”. Discrete advertising in commercial premises often used by people individually, for example pharmacies and hair salons, may also be enhanced.

Farmer said service providers had reported a “dramatic increase in the brutality and severity of attacks” due not only to victims being more isolated, but their abuser displaying more anger due to financial loss, cabin fever, heightened anxiety, or increased alcohol consumption.

“All of these things are creating a perfect storm in which the victim is at heightened risk, and if there are children involved the long-term impact … of exposure to domestic violence is enormous,” Farmer said.

Health Minister Steven Miles said the reduction in injuries from outdoor activities during the pandemic had coincided with an increase in other hospital presentations.

“I’ve been disturbed to hear from our emergency department staff that the reduction in sporting injuries and road trauma has been partially offset by trauma caused by domestic and family violence,” Miles said.

“That’s terrible disturbing for the people affected and for our hospital staff who deal with the aftermath.”

There have been no new cases of COVID-19 overnight, the tally remaining at 1043 on Wednesday morning. There are still nine patients in hospital, four of those in intensive care. The Government will continue to ease restrictions as the infection rate allows.

Farmer said domestic violence victims were being considered during the pandemic response, as shown by changes to residential tenancy laws to provide for an easier escape, and by allowing vulnerable children to continue learning at school.

Outside of today’s summit, the broader community has an opportunity to participate in discussion of services and possible reforms through a Get Involved Survey open until May 29 and coinciding with Queensland Domestic Violence Prevention Month.

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