Housing crisis increases risk for victims of domestic violence

Rising rents and falling vacancy rates have led to a threefold increase in the number of domestic violence victims being forced to stay with their abusive partners, the South Australian Women’s Legal Service has warned.

SA Women’s Legal Service CEO Zita Ngor told: InDaily that the municipal legal department had been “flooded” in the past month with calls from women who had experienced domestic violence and who still lived with the perpetrator.

She said that in an ever-tightening market with fierce competition for homes, women who have experienced domestic violence felt they couldn’t leave if they weren’t sure where they would go to sleep from day to day.

Between May 1 and June 6 of this year, 342 women sought help from the SA Women’s Legal Service, 43 percent of whom lived at home with a domestic violence perpetrator.

Ngor said the percentage had tripled from the same time last year, with women citing the availability and affordability of housing as the main barrier preventing them from leaving.

“Like everyone else, women who have experienced domestic violence have seen coverage of the housing crisis in both the public sector and private rental space,” she said.

“Hearing that there aren’t many opportunities and coupled with the fact that many women are experiencing financial abuse is an important part.

“The women often do not have the financial means to look for alternative housing.”

According to property company SQM Research, Adelaide’s home vacancy rate reached 0.3 percent in May, the lowest of any Australian capital.

Rents in Adelaide are up 18 percent, averaging $520 a week for homes and $372 for units.

It’s a perfect storm situation right now

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people are on the waiting list for social housing in South Australia, with data released in March showing just under 3,000 were marked as category one – the highest priority.

Domestic violence services were also at the “capacity breaking point” and some women were unable to find places in crisis shelters such as motels, especially if they had pets or children.

“If a woman wants to make the decision to get out of any relationship, even if it’s abusive, there are many factors to consider, especially if she has children she cares about,” Ngor said.

“I think it’s a perfect storm at the moment with the rising cost of living, housing crisis, coupled with the personal situation of women, especially if they are carers.”

Ngor said there were “significant risks” that women could be seriously injured or killed.

“Women report stories such as the perpetrator entering the bedroom at night with a knife and threatening to kill them,” she said.

“No one should be forced to live like this.”

She said the Women’s Legal Service had also seen a rise in the number of women being followed by their partners when they left the family home.

“It’s as simple as the perpetrator putting a small device in a handbag, for example, and then seeing where the woman is going,” she said.

“It’s a conversation we’re now having with women who have access to our service because we know of cases where those tools have been used to identify that the woman has asked us for help, which has subsequently affected women. when they get back home.

“Unfortunately, that has become a reality for the cohort of clients who still live with the perpetrator.”

It comes after the SA’s Legal Services Commission reported a 45 percent increase in the number of women seeking legal help after experiencing domestic violence last month.

The commission described the spike as “pretty significant”, with the rising cost of living partly to blame.

Figures from the SA Women’s Legal Service show that in May of this year, 76 percent of its clients reported experiencing domestic violence, compared to 69 percent in the same time last year.

The agency says more women are seeking help for multiple legal issues surrounding safety, homelessness, financial insecurity and mental health.

For free and confidential legal advice, call the Women’s Legal Service (SA) at: 1800 816 349

Anyone dealing with domestic and family violence can access support or counseling by calling 1800 Respect – 1800 737 732 – or the DV Crisis Line on 1800 800 098.

Call 000 in case of emergency.

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