Virus drives increase in Australia domestic violence cases

AFP

Australia on Sunday announced an almost US$100 million boost in funding to tackle violence after support services reported a spike in coronavirus-related family abuse.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there had been a 75 percent surge in Google searches for help during the continued nationwide shutdown of non-essential services to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Women's Safety, a violence charity in Australia's most populous New South Wales state, has reported that quite 40 percent of workers had seen a rise in client numbers, with over a 3rd of cases directly linked to the virus outbreak.

In neighbouring Victoria, women's support service Wayss said police requests for assistance with cases had almost doubled within the past week, as they addressed a sort of abuse "not experienced before".

"Just having the people within the house, instead of having the pressure release of getting to work, or having the ability to travel freely outside of the house are contributing factors," Wayss CEO Liz Thomas told public broadcaster ABC.

"We've also seen half a dozen examples within the past week where perpetrators have actually used COVID-19 as a sort of abuse -- telling their partner that they need the virus, therefore they can not leave the house."

Perpetrators have also invited "people into the house where the lady is self-isolating, saying that the visitor has COVID-19 and goes to infect them", Thomas said.

Prime Minister Morrison said the Aus$150 million boost -- a part of a further Aus$1.1 billion in health-related spending announced Sunday -- would be spent on telephone support services for both violence victims and abusers.

"We got to put more resources into supporting people that are going to be vulnerable and should be vulnerable," he told reporters in Canberra.

The government is additionally increasing funding for online psychological state services, telephone medical consultations and emergency food relief in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has left many of us largely confined to their homes.

Australia has recorded almost 4,000 cases of COVID-19, with the price rising to 16 on Sunday.

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