COVID-19 Australia: Alcohol’s Role in Family Violence Revealed

A new study has revealed alcohol plays a serious role in family violence in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study was conducted by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) in collaboration with Women’s Safety NSW. The results were revealed in the report entitled “Family violence and alcohol during COVID-19“. The study surveyed a total of 53 frontline women’s specialist domestic and family violence workers from 27 family and domestic violence services in New South Wales (NSW) between May 4th to 8th, 2020.

Key results from the survey are as follows:

  • Nearly half (47%) of the respondents reported an increase in their case load since COVID-19 restrictions began, 38% reported no increase or decrease and 15% reported a decrease.
  • The most common reason for a reported increase in case load was demand from new clients (56%), followed by demand from existing clients (20%).
  • Around half (51%) reported that there has been an increase in the involvement of alcohol in family violence situations since the COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, while 40% said alcohol’s involvement had not changed and none of the respondents reported decreased involvement.

Current issues with alcohol use and family violence identified included:

  • Increased alcohol use because of changed circumstances;
  • Alcohol use fueling increasing verbal and physical abuse;
  • Alcohol adding to financial strain on the family.

Increasing violence linked to alcohol

The surveyed specialists have shared that women tell them alcohol is being used in response to stress, loss of employment, fears of the virus, isolation and being “stuck at home with children and partners”. Some clients report using alcohol to numb the pain of abuse, creating a viscous cycle of alcohol use, related problems, and more alcohol use and problems.

This is extremely concerning as we are heading into a highly risky time for women and children seeking safety as the pandemic restrictions are slowly lifted,” said Hayley Foster, CEO of Women’s Safety NSW, as per the FARE website.

Specialist workers are reporting that alcohol was involved in new cases where violence was not previously reported. 

Solutions to alcohol fueled family violence

FARE emphasises the importance of addressing the alcohol link with violence holistically, including measures to restrict alcohol delivery.

Alcohol can increase the frequency and severity of family violence and there is an urgent need to address this holistically, including common sense measures like stopping the ‘rapid delivery’ of alcohol to people in their homes late at night,” said Caterina Giorgi, CEO of FARE, as per the FARE website.

Both FARE and Women’s Safety NSW stress the importance of providing consistent support to women and children who face violence. They call for greater integration between alcohol and other drug (AOD), mental health, health and family violence services and training across sectors.

Not just in Autralia

Similar cases of an increase in violence during COVID-19 are reported in other parts of the world. For example, in New York according to new data from the NYC Administration for Children’s Service, alcohol and other drugs are playing a larger role in reports of child abuse, according to reporting of NBC New York.

Sources:

FARE: “Role of alcohol in family violence revealed by specialists in COVID-19 assessment

Sky News: “Alcohol increases the ‘prevalence and severity’ of domestic violence