This article contains references to domestic abuse and may be triggering for some readers. If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
Among the terrifying statistics coming out surrounding COVID-19, there has been another major spike that isn’t getting nearly as much attention: Domestic violence.
As we all returned home, most were thankful to be retreating to their own personal havens to be with loved ones and to spend some quality time with our partners. However, the reality of being locked up at home was much more haunting for victims of domestic abuse.
Watch: Domestic violence: the hidden numbers. (Post continues below.)
Abuse rates are up dramatically during this time, with it now being reported that one in 10 Australian women are dealing with domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic.
A survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology revealed that women who had experienced physical or sexual violence pre-COVID are now experiencing violence much more frequently or severely since the first lockdown.
Speaking to Mamamia in May, Renata Field, media spokesperson for Domestic Violence New South Wales (DVNSW), said domestic violence tends to go up whenever people are spending more time at home together - Christmas, Easter, school holidays.
Add to that the pressures of people losing jobs and financial concerns, she said, and you have a “melting pot, where people are at significant risk of domestic violence”.
In Melbourne, with a state-mandated stage 4 lockdown, there's an even more pronounced risk.
“The lockdown is a particularly dangerous time for people experiencing domestic and family violence because social isolation is a tool that people who use violence use to harm their victim,” Field told Mamamia. “So if there is an enforced social isolation by the state, then those people are going to be more isolated, and it will be even more challenging for them to reach out for support."
According to Field, the two most important things we can do if we suspect someone in our lives is experiencing abuse, is to listen and believe. And now, a new official hand signal spreading around the globe - serving as a silent and safe cry for help - might make that easier.
Watch: The domestic violence hand signal allowing victims to ask for help. Post continues after video.
This signal can be subtly performed while a victim is on a FaceTime call with a friend, using their body to shield any glances from their abuser.