In these unprecedented times, Domestic and Family Violence Refuges, as an essential service, have continued to provide accommodation and support to women and children escaping violence within their homes, at the same time ensuring that women in the community are aware that help is still available, despite the isolation requirements.
COVID-19 has meant that this has had to be done in a somewhat different way, however, it has been important to recognize that women and children in crisis and experiencing trauma need a face-to-face response, and for most refuges it has not been possible to move all their work to a remote response, via phone or internet.
Whilst research has backed up the fears of those in the violence against women sector that there would be a huge spike in domestic violence as a result of isolation regulations, for most refuges, to this point in time, it has remained business as usual, operating most times at full capacity.
This does not mean there has not been an increase but rather that, as with other times of disaster, women have been reluctant to add to the distress their children are experiencing by moving them away from their home and familiar surroundings.
However, for refuges, what was not business as usual, was around exit options for women, difficulties accessing Department of Housing and Centrelink, who had moved most of their work on line, the lack of rental properties, changes to viewing rentals etc.
This combined set of circumstances has resulted in fewer housing options and fewer refuge vacancies at a time when more women and children are in need of a safe haven.