Family violence support services remain open as demand surges

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Family violence and sexual assault support organisations in Canberra remain open and some have reported increased demand for services due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As sexual assault and family violence support organisations in the ACT report increased demand for their services due to COVID-19 restrictions, they have a clear message for the Canberra community: ‘we are still open for anyone in need’.

“Some of our organisations have reported a big jump in demand for services this month, as the impact of COVID-19 including isolation, movement restrictions, job losses and financial stress places many clients at greater risk of family violence,” said Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates.

“We want to reassure our clients and the community that all of our services remain open and ready to respond. We are just as committed as ever to assisting Canberrans.”

Services such as Victim Support ACT at the ACT Human Rights Commission, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) and the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre are all still operating, with people encouraged to make contact if they need to. The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre’s crisis, counselling and advocacy appointments are now via phone, while the 24-hour callout service to police and forensic services is open.

DVCS CEO Sonia De Mezza said DVCS “remains available 24/7 to those in the community who have been impacted by domestic and family violence, including those who are at risk of using violence. We continue to provide crisis intervention, legal advocacy, safety planning and referrals during this time.

“If you are concerned about what is happening for you or worried about a friend or family member, we encourage you to contact us.”

Legal assistance is still available, too, with Legal Aid’s family violence unit available by phone, and the Women’s Legal Centre still operating, including the Aboriginal Women’s Program.

“COVID-19 has created a lot of uncertainty for women in Canberra,” said Women’s Legal Centre executive director Elena Roseman.

“If you are separated and are worried about how to manage your parenting arrangements during this time, or if you are contemplating separation and want to know your legal options to protect your safety or your kids, the Women’s Legal Centre can help. We can also help if you are having problems working with care and protection, or problems at work related to family or domestic violence or COVID-19,” she said.

“The Centre’s Aboriginal Women’s Program is also still operating and we’re here if you need a yarn or a hand to make sure you’ve got the support you need.”

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