While I have been enjoying a rest over the festive season, I have also been thinking about the people working in services where this is their busiest period.
In addition to the emergency service workers, those working in hospitals, and those keeping the shops open, some of the services that experience a high level of demand at this time of year are those working in the area of domestic and family violence.
Pressures that can come with increased family contact, financial stresses and isolation often result in more people contacting services looking for help over this period. People contacting services can be impacted by different forms of violence, including physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, financial and sexual abuse.
The increase in calls for help at this time of the year has been so sustained that it has resulted in the introduction of a specific program to deal with the increase of demand. For a number of years the ACT Government has supported the Domestic Violence Christmas Program which provides additional emergency accommodation over this period through to the end of January. This project is delivered in partnership with the government, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) and specialist homelessness services.
The spike in calls for help at this time of the year is on top of significant annual increases in calls for help to domestic and family violence services. For example, DVCS saw a 23 percent increase in contacts last year. This is similar to increased demand reported by other services working in this area.
While domestic and family violence affects both women and men, the evidence is clear that women disproportionately affected, with women making up the vast majority of people contacting services. In Australia, one in three women will be affected by violence in their lifetime.
While it is easy to pretend that this isn’t an issue that affects us, the reality is that people we know are likely to be affected by domestic and family violence. While people are often scared to get involved, our reluctance to extend our own hand to help is one of the reasons that we are not seeing a reduction in the rates of domestic and family violence. The easiest thing to do is to gently check on with someone who we might be concerned about. Just letting people know you are prepared to help can make a real difference, and even if they don’t respond immediately, they may down the track. If you feel like you need more information, services are happy to provide advice on particular circumstances.
So, thank you to all the staff and volunteers who worked over the Christmas and New Year’s period to make sure that there was someone at the end of the phone when people asked for help around domestic and family violence.
What do you think we can do to better support people who may be experiencing domestic and family violence?
If you or someone you know is affected by domestic or family violence, call the ACT Domestic Violence Crisis Service 24-hour crisis line on 6280 0900. Lifeline also provides 24 hour / 7 day a week crisis telephone support, call 13 11 14. In an emergency, call 000.