Domestic violence during COVID-19- story behind headline statistic

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) today released a report detailing the impacts of COVID-19 on rates of domestic violence in March 2020. The report states that police recorded incidents of domestic violence did not significantly increase, despite the introduction of social isolation measures in mid-March.

Overall, across the state, domestic violence assaults were up just 1.74%, domestic violence breaches were up 7.56%, and grievous bodily harm was up just 2.94%. However, reported sexual assaults in a domestic context were down a whopping 27.19% and there were half as many domestic homicides as there were this time last year.

Yet, peer behind the headline statistics and there is much more to the story. In fact, reporting rates haven’t been consistent across the state. In a recent survey of frontline domestic violence workers undertaken by Women’s Safety NSW in the last week of March 2020, 41.7% reported an increase in client numbers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is consistent with additional BOCSAR data shared with Women’s Safety NSW for March 2020 today which shows an increase in reported rates of domestic violence related assault in nine (9) out of the fourteen (14) statistical areas in the period. This included, for example, increases of 54.8% in Coffs Harbour/ Grafton, 31.1% in the Capital region, and 22.5% in the Illawarra. These increases have been offset by significant decreases in reporting in other areas, such as Richmond-Tweed (-31.1%), Far West and Orana (-23.6%), New England and North West region (-22.4%).

In further data supplied to Women’s Safety NSW by BOCSAR, police were also called out to 4.96% more verbal arguments in March 2020 when compared to the same time last year, and 7.40% more domestic violence incidents – no offence matters.

“What sits behind these broad brush statistics is the rich data we can source from frontline domestic violence workers who are in daily contact with hundreds of women and their children who are currently living with the horror of domestic and family violence, terrorised behind closed doors, with fewer options to safely reach out than ever before” says Women’s Safety NSW chief executive officer, Hayley Foster…

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