Responding to the ‘shadow pandemic’: practitioner views on the nature of and responses to violence against women in Victoria, Australia during the COVID-19 restrictions
The COVID-19 global health pandemic has increased women’s vulnerability to all forms of gender-based violence. Australia, like many other countries worldwide, entered into a period of government directed lockdowns in the first weeks of March 2020 including stay-at-home orders and movement restrictions. With more people confined to their homes to reduce the community spread of COVID-19, there is a greater risk of violence against women and children. This Report presents the findings from a qualitative and quantitively survey of 166 practitioners from Victoria, Australia. The findings reveal the concerns of Victorian practitioners that the pandemic has led to an increase in the frequency and severity of violence against women alongside an increase in the complexity of women’s needs. Other findings examined include the emergence of new forms of intimate partner violence relating to social isolation as well as relating to the threat and risk of COVID-19 infection, practitioner recognition that for many women experiencing violence during this period there was a reduction in the ability to seek help, and the identification of numerous challenges to providing supports, undertaking effective risk assessment and carrying out safety planning during the COVID-19 restrictions phase. The findings have significant funding and resource implications. The research also draws attention to the wellbeing considerations for those practitioners working remotely to support women experiencing violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to develop worker supports as Victoria moves into the easing of restrictions and recovery periods.