By Alice Marriott
Victims of family and domestic violence are now able to file restraining orders online offering a potential lifeline for sufferers of abuse.
The move is part of a reform package to protect at risk people during the COVID-19 pandemic, with cases of family and domestic violence spiking since lockdown restrictions were put in place in March.
Before now, people seeking the protection of restraining orders were forced to visit court registries.
WA Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence minister Simone McGurk said the online process will make it easier and less traumatic for family and domestic violence victims to obtain restraining orders.
“There has been an urgent need for this measure because of COVID-19 restrictions keeping people at home, and the associated risks around perpetrators exploiting the situation to control and coerce victims,” Ms McGurk.
The changes will remain once the pandemic is over, Ms McGurk’s office said.
According to WA crime statistics, assault (family) and threatening behaviour (family) has risen from 1,677 cases in July of last year to 2,388 in March.
This legislative change follows the Commonwealth Government committing $150 million in emergency funding to address the impacts of family and domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions.
“Mass unemployment, economic anxiety and families in lockdown is a recipe for disaster,” WA Police constable Nicholas Perkins said.
“Staying locked down at home can be a nightmare [for some people] but it’s important to remember they’re not alone. There are so many resources available,” Mr Perkins said.
1800 RESPECT is Australia’s national support service for anyone impacted by sexual assault, family and domestic violence.
Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline: 08 9223 1188 or 1800 007 339
Men’s Domestic Violence Helpline: 08 9223 1199 or 1800 000 599
Further information can be obtained from http://www.victimsofcrime.wa.gov.au or by calling the Office of the Commissioner for Victims of Crime on 9425 2973.