Hotline setup for family violence victims

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COVID-19 pandemic sees sharp rise in family violence cases across the country, says Saru Rana

Family violence and abuse are not new epidemics. And seeing the pattern of increasing abuse being repeated in many communities in Australia, Saru Rana an Indian-Australian social activist has initiated a Violence and Abuse reporting HOTLINE for women and children.

Around Australia, as states have gone into semi or complete-lockdowns to stop the spread of coronavirus, the mass efforts to save lives have put one vulnerable group more at risk.

Women and children who live with domestic violence have no escape from their abusers during quarantine, Saru Rana, mentions she is already seeing a rise in the calls for ‘help’ from community members.

“The epidemic has had a huge impact on domestic violence,” Saru Rana, who founded SHAMSHIR against Violence and Abuse, told The Indian Sun “The causes of violence are mostly related to the Covid-19 epidemic.”

Those alarming figures log only cases where women are able to seek help; many cannot make calls because they fear being overheard by abusive partners, or are stopped from leaving home.

Alarming phone calls for help had dropped sharply, but instead there are desperate text messages and emails: Saru Rana

Saru adds, alarming phone calls for help had dropped sharply, but instead there are desperate text messages and emails, which are responded to but then deleted for the purpose of confidentiality.

I do have some callers who call in on a regular basis,” said Saru. “I might be the only person they get to talk to that day, for whatever reason. They’re shut in or they don’t have friends and family’s support.”

She adds, we are expected to see an “explosive increase” in the number of reports of domestic abuse once the lockdown restrictions eased.

Ensuring that channels of communication are kept open,” she said. “The HOTLINE is active all the time and women can also contact by email and Facebook on SHAMSHIR.”

The increased threat to women and children was a predictable side effect of the coronavirus lockdowns, said the activist. Increased abuse is a pattern repeated in many emergencies, whether conflict, economic crisis or during disease outbreaks, although the quarantine rules pose a particularly grave challenge.

“It happens in all crisis situations,” said Saru. “What we worry about is just as rates of violence are on the rise, the accessibility of services and the ability of women to access these services will decrease. This is a real challenge.”

“You can fix a bandage on somebody’s wound, and you can fix a broken arm, but there’s a lot of scars inside of our heads that we haven’t gotten over with,” she said.

There is an army of volunteers that are professional social workers, counsellors, health care workers and community members, but won’t reveal their identity for confidentiality purpose or their personal preferences. But these dedicated volunteers are determined to keep fighting to keep the support open.

People joining us are all aware that “Being confined to home because of coronavirus is difficult for everyone, but it becomes a real nightmare for female victims of gender-based violence.”

We are avoiding house visits and therefore have our hotline open 24/7. “Recognising that, generally, in times of crisis this is a problem, we are working around the clock to get the word out,” said Saru.

Once the hotline and our volunteers were confirmed, Saru requested community Radio channels as well as social media and the print media to share the word. There is no question in my mind that with the economic impact of the crisis this will get worse and we together have to “Suppress corona, not our voice.”


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