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Violence against women: Figures reveal effect of Covid on Perth domestic abuse survivors

Reclaim the Night, Perth in 2019. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

A campaign demanding a safer world for women will launch in Perth this month as new figures reveal fewer domestic abuse survivors were able to seek help during Covid.

Women will take to the streets to “Reclaim the Night” during the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence.

Reclaim the Night
Reclaim the Night, Perth in 2019. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

It comes as the Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (Rasac) Perth said 20% fewer women self-referred for its services last year, one reason being many were locked down with their abuser.

This is despite a previous year-on-year rise in the numbers seeking support.

In its annual report, Rasac said: “During this unprecedented year, many survivors have been unable to self-refer for a number of reasons, such as life pressures due to lockdown, full time childcare, home schooling, no privacy, and also living with the perpetrator.”

More women receiving support

Rasac received referrals for 145 women in 2020-21, just 36% of which were self-referrals.

Its waiting list had already become unmanageable and women were waiting up to 34 weeks for help.

This saw the organisation reluctantly take the decision to cut the number of sessions it offered each person from 24 to 12.

And it was then able to get to women in need more quickly.

“Over the last few years, our waiting list has significantly grown, with survivors in 2019 to 2020 having to wait up to 34 weeks for support,” it said.

“The decision we made in February 2020 to reduce the number of sessions provided to survivors… has meant in the last 12 months, we have reduced the waiting list by 26% for adult support and 25% for young people support, meaning survivors have spent less time on the waiting list in the last 12 months.”

Covid means Rasac has also had to change the way in which is provides support.

There are fewer face-to-face meetings and last year it offered 525 sessions via email – a rise of 328%.

Meanwhile, 1,618 hours of phone sessions were provided, an increase of 788%.

And 490 video sessions were delivered, compared to only three the previous year.

Gender Equality Perth
Rebecca McClune of Gender Equality Perth.

And Covid has also affected women in other ways.

In March, Gender Equality Perth said the pandemic had highlighted numerous gender equality issues, including gender-based violence.

Co-founder and chairwoman Rebecca McClune said: “Throughout Covid-19, there has been an increase in violence against women, and the disparity in caring and household duties has been increased and emphasised.

16 Days of Activism

Perth and Kinross Violence Against Women Partnership’s 16 Days of Activism aims to raise awareness of the plight of many women.

Various events between November 26 and December 10 will see the community take a stand against gender-based violence and highlight the support available.

The Reclaim the Night March will begin from Civic Hall on December 2.

A reclaim the streets event in Dundee following the murder of Sarah Everard this year.

Now in its 30th year, 16 Days of Activism is a global initiative that highlights that women and girls should be able to walk the streets day or night without fear of violence and harassment.

Partnerhip chairperson Hazel Robertson said: “It is a travesty that we have to be doing these events all these years later.

“There has been a huge commitment to highlighting these issues.

“We have been trying to attract as wide a range of people in the community as possible.

“It’s really important that we can get the message across that there are services available for support.”

Other activities include a Building Moral Rebels to Prevent Violence event.

It will analyse the “bystander moment”, which highlights the importance of people not being “passive spectators” to an incident but of instead being “active bystanders” who offer support.

Meanwhile, landmarks across Perth and Kinross will be lit up in orange as part of efforts to further raise awareness of the issue.

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