Domestic violence services fear another spike in incidents this AFL and NRL grand final weekend

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Domestic violence prevention services are bracing for a spike in incidents this weekend as the NRL and AFL grand finals take place.

It comes as a coalition of services – No to Violence, White Ribbon Australia, 1800RESPECT, Our Watch and Respect Victoria – launched a ‘Play our Part’ campaign on Tuesday, aimed at raising awareness around how to prevent violence and what supports are available. 

Last year, New South Wales experienced 27.9 per cent and 16.3 per cent increases in family violence police incidents on NRL and AFL grand final days respectively, while Victoria saw 11.6 and 15.1 per cent increases, according to the campaign.

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Family violence incidents in Tasmania on AFL Grand Final day are also 35 per cent higher than on other days, the campaign says.

There is also concern that with Victorians at home this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the risk of violence is even higher than usual.

While announcing a partial easing of coronavirus restrictions on Sunday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Melburnians would not be able to host AFL Grand Final parties or barbecues.

Jacqui Watt, chief executive of No to Violence, said while grand final day can be a celebration for some, it is a dangerous time for others.

“We may have competitive rivalries between our teams, but all of us need to be on the same side against family and domestic violence and play our part in creating a safe future for all,” Ms Watt said.

Ms Watt said more than 300,000 people experience family violence each year in Australia, enough to collectively fill many of the country’s most famous sporting stadiums.

Patty Kinnersly, chief executive of Our Watch, said sport is never an excuse for men to use violence against women.

“We know from the research that family and domestic violence is not caused by the disappointment of your team losing, a few too many beers or the stress of a tense match,” she said.

“Although these factors may exacerbate the violence, it is driven by gender inequality and the perpetrator’s need for power and control over their victim.”

There have already been 39 women killed in domestic violence incidents this year in Australia, according to the Counting Dead Women project.

In 2019, the total number of deaths was 61, equating to more than one per week. 

Coronavirus lockdowns across the world have also led to increased incidents of domestic violence. 

Earlier this year, an Australian Institute of Criminology survey of 15,000 women found 4.6 per cent of respondents, or 690 individuals, had experienced domestic violence in the first months of the pandemic.

Thirty-three percent of respondents said it was the first time they had experienced violence from their partner and 53 per cent said existing experiences had become worse.

Tracey Gaudry, Respect Victoria CEO, hopes more awareness of prevention and support services will change the attitudes that lead to domestic violence.

“The more people who choose to ‘call it out’ when a friend, colleague or family member acts or speaks disrespectfully about a woman, the less that behaviour will be seen as ‘normal’ and will eventually stop altogether,” she said.

If you or someone you know is impacted by family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. The Men’s Referral Service provides advice for men on domestic violence and can be contacted on 1300 766 491. In an emergency, call 000.

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