Family violence expected to increase following bushfire crisis

Australia has just endured a horrific start to the bushfire season, and many communities and families are now grappling with the devastating aftermath. Unfortunately, for some people, increased family violence is an added trauma to deal with at this already difficult time. 

Academic research and the first-hand experiences of domestic violence support services have found that family violence spikes after disasters. This was the case after Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, Hurricane Katrina in the US in 2005 and the Canterbury earthquake in New Zealand in 2010.

The reasons for higher levels of violence following disasters vary, but in general relate to the trauma, stress, tension, fear, and loss of financial and housing security following these events.

Regardless of the reasons, the RCH says that disaster is no excuse for family violence. Family violence can have long-term effects on the health and wellbeing of children, babies and young people.

There are many support services available if you are experiencing violence. If you or your child are in immediate danger, call the police on 000. Otherwise, you can contact:

  • 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault and family violence counselling service, available online and on the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre (1800 015 188) – crisis service providing support and access to refuges for women and children, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Kids Helpline (1800 551800) – a private and confidential phone and online counselling service available for children and young people aged five to 25, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • No to Violence (1300 766 491) – national referral service working with men to end family violence, available in Victoria weekdays 8 am – 9 pm, weekends 9 am – 5 pm.
  • MensLine (1300 789 978) – telephone and online counselling service specialising in family and relationship concerns, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Our Kids Health Info fact sheet Family violence – effects on children’s health has valuable information on how family violence impacts children and ways to help them.

2 comments for “Family violence expected to increase following bushfire crisis”

  1. Blessing

    Why exactly will trauma from disaster promote family violence instead of foster unity since everyone is obviously trying to survive?

    Reply
    • Corporate Communications

      Thank you for your comment – it’s a good question.

      During a disaster we’d expect people to band together to survive, and most people do. Indeed, we’ve seen communities across Australia unite to help each other this fire season.

      But in the aftermath of disasters, the initial trauma is compounded by a lot of ongoing pressure and uncertainty within the family. Research tells us that in this environment there are increased reports of both first-time family violence and escalating severity in families already experiencing violence.

      Community attitudes following disasters tend to promote traditional family and gender roles – we expect men to be tough and heroic and expect women to be supportive and caring (even at the expense of their own safety), which means family violence can be overlooked or excused. Overstretched community support may have limited capacity to acknowledge relationship violence and provide support for safety plans.

      For more information on this issue, see Gender & Disaster Pod at https://www.genderanddisaster.com.au/

      If anyone is experiencing family violence, we recommend contacting 1800RESPECT for help.

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