Lockdown lifts home violence

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
South West Refuge chief executive Ali White.
Camera IconSouth West Refuge chief executive Ali White.

A rise in financial stress and feelings of isolion have led to a rise in domestic violence incidents in the Capes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Calls to the Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline increased 62 per cent in March and 32 per cent in April.

South West Refuge chief executive Allie White said the refuge had seen a decrease in planned escapes during the pandemic but crisis admissions had continued to grow.

“Lockdown restrictions made it difficult for victims to call us or contact us while unable to leave the house,” she said.

However, victims of family and domestic violence can now apply for restraining orders online under new laws. The laws created a separate offence for breaching a family violence restraining order, and increased the penalty from $6000 to $10,000 and two years’ jail.

People seeking the protection of restraining orders have previously been required to visit a court registry to apply, but now victims can apply online with Legal Aid WA, Aboriginal Family Law Services and community legal centres.

If a magistrate grants an order and it is served on the respondent, the victim can be informed electronically, including via an SMS.

Attorney-General John Quigley said online applications would help victims of violence by making the process more convenient and less stressful.

“This legislation allows victims to lodge applications quickly and safely through one of the identified legal services,” he said.

Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk said the service would be permanent.

“There has been an urgent need for this measure because of COVID-19 restrictions keeping people at home, and the associated risks around perpetrators exploiting the situation to control and coerce victims,” she said.

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said police were “deeply concerned” by an increase in domestic violence. He said police were working with the Department of Communities on a number of strategies.

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