Police fear sudden rise in COVID-19 related DV cases

THE Far North's already shocking domestic violence record could be in for a horror jump amid self-isolating, financial woes and alcohol abuse during the COVID-19 crisis.

The region, which always has among the highest rates of DV in the state, has already recorded a startling 30 per cent jump in assaults since June last year - more than half of which involved people who knew each other - and police, domestic violence groups and university experts said it was likely worse could be to come.

 

Chief Superintendent Brian Huxley fears a spike in coronavirus-related DV cases across the Far North. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Chief Superintendent Brian Huxley fears a spike in coronavirus-related DV cases across the Far North. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

Far North police Chief Supt Brian Huxley said police were horrified by the climb in violent offending with more than 1000 assault charges laid since July 1 last year.

"Anecdotally the front line indicates that all domestic violence is serious, but domestic violence with a component of physical violence to it has increased," Chief Supt Huxley said.

"At the coal face in the last few weeks there are indicators that the numbers have dropped off … but we will possibly see people under enormous financial stress as a result of losing jobs that may (impact on our) domestic violence statistics.

Chief Supt Huxley said since July 1 police had seen an 18 per cent surge in contravening domestic violence order offences and smaller jumps in both police and private DV applications.

 

Amanda Lee-Ross said she had concerns about how self-isolation could affect domestic violence victims. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
Amanda Lee-Ross said she had concerns about how self-isolation could affect domestic violence victims. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

Cairns Regional Domestic Violence Service chief executive Amanda Lee-Ross said their greatest concern during the virus was those staying with an abuser during self-isolation "thinking they have no choice".

She said it was also not safe for some victims to contact their service via phone so skeleton staff were being maintained in their CBD office and shelters were still open, but filling up faster due to social distancing measures.

She said the service had even received reports of "coercive control" linked to the virus, such as preventing the victim from washing their hands or pretending to invite infected people into their homes.

CQU criminologist Dr Emma Turley said self isolation measures, home schooling and working from home may trigger more incidents.

"Victims of DV won't have that physical support network, and their access to phone and internet might be controlled so communication might be difficult," she said.

Originally published as Police fear sudden rise in COVID-19 related DV cases


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