Family violence in emergencies

Understanding how to support family safety as part of an emergency management response and collaboration with other services is an important part of emergency planning.

Family violence increases in emergency-affected communities

Family violence increases in emergency-affected communities, and the compounding effect it has on emergency-related trauma can affect an individual’s ability to act to protect their own safety and wellbeing. Other factors that may increase the risk of family violence include:

  • Homelessness
  • Financial stress
  • Unemployment
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Trauma.

Family violence is driven by gender inequality, gender stereotypes, and a culture of excusing violence.

The occurrence of family violence increases significantly in emergency-affected communities, especially violence against women. Research into Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday bushfires found that many women experienced increased incidents of violence, often perpetrated by their male partners. Almost half of these incidents occurred in families that had not previously experienced family violence.

Family violence disrupts community recovery

Family violence has significant social, financial, cultural, physical and psychological effects that can disrupt the effective and timely recovery of emergency-affected communities, especially for victim survivors and their families.

Victim survivors experiencing family violence during and after emergencies are also likely to have their suffering intensified by emergency-related trauma, such as that associated with the loss of lives, homes, possessions, employment, income, and social support structures.

Family violence can increase vulnerability to risks associated with an emergency, for example:

  • Victim survivors who are subject to violence aimed at controlling their behaviour may be prevented from developing or enacting their own emergency preparedness plans.
  • In emergencies, victim survivors may also feel that they are reliant on their abusive partners to keep themselves and their children housed and looked after during an emergency, which further exposes them to potential violence.

Where women have left violent ex-partners, their new visibility and potentially shared emergency accommodation may expose them to unavoidable contact with an abusive ex-partner. Intervention orders may also be difficult to enforce during emergencies, including at relief centres. The increased risk of physical and psychological harm that occurs during an emergency makes community recovery more difficult as it undermines people’s feelings of safety, wellbeing, resilience, and social cohesion.

Causes of family violence and their prevalence in emergencies

The causes of family violence are complex and include gender inequality and community attitudes towards women. Compounding factors may also include:

  • Financial pressures
  • alcohol and drug abuse
  • Mental illness
  • Social and economic exclusion.

It is well recognised that specific vulnerabilities exist for women and people with diverse gender identities, and additional factors such as age, culture, and disability, can further affect the experience of family violence and access to support services.

Gender inequality can be exacerbated in emergency situations where men typically demonstrate more extreme forms of gendered stereotypes, such as ‘taking control’ of the family’s emergency preparedness and response plans. This can be seen in men controlling the emergency-related decision-making processes  or being the only ones in the family to attend community information meetings.

2019 Family Violence Framework for Emergency Management

The framework supports planning and response to family violence during emergencies, outlines existing family violence strategy and policy, and the opportunities for partnership between the family violence sector and emergency management sector.

Note: The 2019 Family Violence Framework for Emergency Management replaces the 'Addressing family violence in communities recovering from emergencies strategy'.

For more information, see the Family Violence Framework for Emergency Management (Word).

  • Transforming our response to family violence

    In March 2016 the Royal Commission into Family Violence delivered 227 recommendations to transform Victoria’s response to family violence. The Victorian Government is undertaking significant reform to implement all 227 recommendations through system wide change that focuses on:

    • Prevention
    • Shared responsibility for the safety of people at risk
    • Visibility and accountability of perpetrators across each part of the service system.

    The Victorian family violence reforms create a shared responsibility for preventing and responding to family violence. This involves the whole system working together to increase the safety of victim survivors and hold perpetrators to account.

    For more information about the recommendations, see the Royal Commission into Family Violence website.

  • Family violence multi-agency risk and management and information sharing

    Multi-Agency Risk and Management Framework (MARAM)

    The MARAM is a redevelopment of the Common Risk Assessment Framework (CRAF).

    The MARAM aims to increase the safety and wellbeing of Victorians by ensuring all relevant services are contributing effectively to the identification, assessment and management of family violence risk. It contains a range of supporting resources, including practice guidance and risk identification, screening and assessment tools to support prescribed organisations and family violence professionals.

    The MARAM will gradually see a wider range of professionals and organisations prescribed with responsibilities for family violence risk assessment and management. These responsibilities will depend on their role in the service system and the type of contact they might have with people experiencing family violence. For the emergency services sector, this might include roles in referral for family violence risk and management through referral to relevant local and state-wide specialist services.

    Not all organisations within the emergency management sector are currently prescribed under the MARAM and the schemes.

    For more information, see Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework on the Victorian Government website.

    Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme

    The scheme authorises a group of workers known as information sharing entities (prescribed by regulations) to share relevant information in order to assess or manage family violence risk. It enables the service system to manage victim safety and hold perpetrators to account.

    This scheme began in February 2018 and will be rolled out to more organisations as they become prescribed under the regulations.

    For more information, see Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme on the Victorian Government website.

    Child Information Sharing Scheme

    This scheme expands the circumstances in which authorised professionals and organisations can share information to promote and ensure the wellbeing or safety of children. Before information is shared under the scheme, professionals will seek the views and wishes of the child and families where it is appropriate, reasonable and safe to do so.

  • Equipping Victorian workforces in family violence prevention and response

    Building from Strength: 10-Year Industry Plan for Family Violence Prevention and Response

    The industry plan articulates the Victorian Government's long-term vision and plan for the workforces that prevent and respond to family violence. It further outlines a system where the specialist family violence and primary prevention sectors work with other sectors, including emergency services.

    Capability frameworks

    The industry plan is supported by 2 capability frameworks:

    • Preventing Family Violence and Violence Against Women Capability Framework
    • Responding to Family Violence Capability Framework.

    The frameworks set out the skills and knowledge needed to prevent family violence and violence against women, and to respond to victim survivors (including children) and perpetrators of family violence. They provide organisations with an evidence-based guide against which to self-assess their level of capability and capacity to determine the skills and knowledge required through training and development.

    Specific training in alignment with the Responding to Family Violence Capability Framework

    In line with the industry plan and the capability frameworks, an initial family violence identification and response training course, directly related to the Victorian context, has been developed and accredited to support workforces develop requisite skills and knowledge.

    The course is comprised of a single unit based on the Responding to Family Violence Capability Framework and the MARAM Framework, and is aimed at a foundational level worker’s role in family violence.

    Training

    Roll out of the training will begin through Victoria’s training system from the second half of 2019. You can access the industry plan and capability frameworks on the Victorian Government website.

  • Safety and support hubs - The Orange Door

    The Orange Door is a partnership across government and community sector organisations. It provides a single contact point for adults, children and young people who are experiencing family violence to quickly access the services they need to be safe and supported.

    It brings together access points for:

    • Family violence services
    • Family services
    • Perpetrator/men’s services.

    The Orange Door will gradually replace existing referral points for victims and perpetrators of family violence (including police L17 referral points) and children and families in need of support (Child FIRST).

    It works in partnership with Local Aboriginal services, organisations and communities to support Aboriginal self-determination and ensures that culturally safe responses are available for Aboriginal people across the state.

    Note: The Community Operations and Victims Support Agency (COVSA) continues to provide a tailored access point for adult male victims of family violence (police L17 referrals for adult male victims will continue to go to COVSA, not The Orange Door).

    Access and referrals

    Referrals to the Orange Door can be made by:

    • People self-referring
    • Concerned friends, family or community members
    • All practitioners in the local area.

    Note: Where an Orange Door does not yet exist in a local area, referrals can be made to local specialist family violence services.

    When the Orange Door receives a referral, it undertakes initial screening to assess for:

    • Immediate safety issues
    • Child wellbeing issues or risks that need to be addressed
    • Priority or urgency of the action required.

    Appropriate services to meet the needs of people and families are then identified based on the assessment.

    For more information, see the Orange Door website.

  • Local family violence specialist services and referrals

    Helplines

    Individuals and families experiencing or escaping from family violence can access information and advice through a range of helplines.

    For more information, see Domestic and family violence referrals and services on the Emergency management for violence resources page.[Link to new page]

    Specialist family violence services

    Specialist services provide direct support to women and children experiencing family violence. Any practitioner - like police, GP, hospital or other service,can make a referral to a specialist family violence service or affected individuals can contact them directly.

    The Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria has an online services directory and an online directorate containing contact details and further information on services in the family violence and related sectors around Victoria.

    For access, see the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria website.

  • Family violence gegional Integration committees and family violence principal strategic advisors

    Family violence regional integration committees operate in all department regions. They bring together:

    • Specialist family violence agencies (working with victim/survivors, perpetrators and primary prevention)
    • Child and family services alliances (including Child First and Integrated Family Services)
    • Victoria Police
    • Indigenous family violence regional action Groups
    • Department of Justice and Community Safety (including courts)
    • Department of Health and Human Services’ child protection and local connections.

    These committees drive an integrated family violence service system and identify and deal with local issues within a state-wide framework. 

    Each regional integration committee is convened by a Family Violence Principal Strategic Advisor.

    These advisors work to:

    • Drive the local implementation of key family violence reforms in their area
    • Build partnerships and collaborate across sectors
    • Develop and increase workers’ capability
    • Provide insight into operations, issues, functions and opportunities in their region.

    For more information, contact the local Family Violence Principal Strategic Advisors via the database on the Look Out website.