What can you do to protect yourself, children and other family members if you are experiencing domestic violence during COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic?
For those women and children who are forced to live at home with partners who are abusive or fear that they will be victims of domestic or sexual violence during COVID-19, this is an extremely challenging, frightening and potentially unsafe time.
Below are some ways you can protect yourself and loved ones if you face domestic violence in your home.
Here are our top tips to help you stay safe!
Call the Police
If your spouse or partner becomes aggressive or threatens to harm you, the children or the family pet call the Police immediately. This is not a time to tolerate or excuse violence, even the threat of violence to you or your children is a valid reason for you to call the Police.
If the Police feel that you need the protection of an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) they will make an application for an immediate ADVO with the following mandatory conditions being imposed on your spouse or former partner:
– must not assault or threaten you or members of your family.
– stalk, harass or intimidate you or members of your family.
– deliberately or recklessly destroy or damage anything that belongs to you or members of your family.
Additional orders may also be imposed, depending on your individual circumstances including:
– No longer allowing your partner to reside at the family home.
– Not allowing your partner to contact you except through a lawyer.
– Not allowing your partner within a certain distance from your home, work or school.
– Not allowing your partner to be in your presence or company for at least 12 hours after taking alcohol or drugs.
– Not allowing possession of any firearms or prohibited weapons.
– No allowing your partner to try and locate you.
Changes to ADVO laws in NSW
As of 28 March 2020, changes have been made to ADVOs in NSW as follows:
– Increased from 12 months to two years.
– Courts can grant indefinite ADVOs in severe cases.
– ADVOs automatically extend for two years after an adult offender is released from prison, a period when risk of reoffending is high.
– Senior police have power to immediately vary ADVOs in response to serious and immediate risks to victims, until a court can consider the matter.
If you have a current ADVO and your partner breaches the ADVO, report this to the Police immediately. COVID-19 is not an excuse to breach ADVO’s.
Keep the lines of communication open
There is no shame, embarrassment or fear in keeping the lines of communications open with your trusted family members, friends and community support. To keep yourself safe, arrange to speak to one of your supports at least once a day and if possible, find a private place from which you make or take the call.
Arrange a ‘safe or code’ word, so when you are asked by your support person if you are okay you use a mutually agreed word to let the other person know how you are feeling or coping.
Monitor your Emails / Phone and Change any Passwords
Take extra precautions when sending using your mobile phone, IPAD, computers and other electronic equipment to ensure that your communication is kept confidential. Now may be the best time to change your passwords or implement a private code on your phone. You may also think about getting a second phone, that you use for emergency calls or when connecting with support people.
Monitor your Bank Accounts and change any Passwords
For many families’ financial distress will increase. If you are receiving Centrelink payments or continuing to work, it may be prudent to set up your own account. In the event of an emergency, you could access this money quickly.
If you and your spouse or partner have a joint account, if possible, see whether you can make it that both of you sign if withdrawals over a certain amount of money are made. If you have money in offset accounts or re-draw facilities, consider what you can do to preserve these funds.
Keep emergency and support numbers handy
The NSW domestic violence line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you need support call 1800 65 65 43.
Make yourself known to the local police and speak with the Domestic Violence Liaison officer (DVLO). Your local DVLO is trained to handle domestic violence and support you and your children when living with your spouse or partner is unsafe.
Lifeline is also a free service that is available 24 hours a day. If you are struggling with mental health issues or domestic violence call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Seek Legal Advice
If you are feeling unsafe or unsure of your legal rights, seek legal advice. If you are forced to live under the same roof with a violent partner, get legal assistance as soon as possible. The legal advice you receive will inform you of your rights and provide you with a strategy to navigate separation.
If you are forced to leave your home have important documents and possessions ready
Although leaving your home, may be the last thing that you want, sometimes it’s the only way you and your children can be safe. Prepare for the worst by having in your possession the following:
1. Your driver’s licence, bank details, birth/marriage certificates
2. Centrelink and immigration documents
3. Car and house keys
4. Car registration Papers
5. Medical and Medicare cards/records
6. Taxation and other financial documents
7. Clothing and items of value such as photographs or jewellery
8. Your children’s favourite toys