While Eagles and Roosters fans geared up for a big night to celebrate their Grand Final victories last weekend, frontline domestic violence responders were preparing for a big few days – and weeks – ahead.
1800RESPECT, the national sexual assault and domestic violence helpline service, saw a 10 per cent increase in calls over the footy finals weekend last week.
“Weekends like this we do always see an increase, it’s not always on the night of, it’s also in the weeks following,” 1800RESPECT program specialist Inez Carey told Hack.
“Some people can be contacting in crisis, some people can be contacting for the very first time.”
Last weekend’s increase comes during a particularly busy year for 1800RESPECT: the service says that in 2018, more Australian women than ever before have been reaching out about sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence. The 62 per cent increase, they say, has been sparked by the worldwide #MeToo movement.
Inez Carey says lots of their callers are from concerned loved ones of people who may be experiencing violence.
“We tell them to be there for your friend or family member, let them know that you’re worried, that you want to talk.
“Let them know it’s not okay, that no one should experience any form of violence, that they have the right to be respected and safe.”
Inez says the 1800RESPECT team uses data from previous years to determine how best to roster their staff to cope with the increase in demand – which typically means increasing the number of responders in the weeks following a major sport event like the footy finals.
A global problem
The increase in calls around major sporting events like the footy finals isn’t exactly surprising: globally, sport and domestic violence seem to go hand-in-hand.
During the World Cup this year, the UK’s National Centre for Domestic Violence launched a campaign which called attention to the increase of domestic violence around England’s game days.
‘If England get beaten, so will she’, the campaign says.
Meanwhile US and Canadian studies have also found significant increases in domestic violence when local American football teams played games.
Why is there a link between domestic violence and major sporting events?
According to researchers, the reasons for an increase in domestic violence around sporting events aren’t totally clear.
Sport does not cause violence, but the combination of alcohol, stimulation and emotion may exacerbate existing tensions within a relationship, according to Dr Michael Livingston, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe university and author of a study about domestic violence around State of Origin games.
“The obvious driver is people drinking a lot and having a stimulating evening and people are drunk and excited and things get a bit nasty sometimes,” he told Hack earlier this year.
“This is especially the case in sports that are heavily male supported.”
According to Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly, the link between domestic violence and sport all comes back to gender equality and respect for women.
“The driver here isn’t sport, or even sport, alcohol and violence. The real driver of men’s violence against women is gender inequality,” Patty told Hack.
“Sadly, we see the results of inequality in the disproportionate rates of violence against women perpetrated by men. This year, 62 women have been killed by men. In the past week, six more women have been murdered. That could never have happened if women were truly equal to men.”
Patty says Our Watch is working with Australian sporting codes to encourage an increase in women in sport leadership roles, and making sure sporting clubs are “safe and inclusive” for women.
“If we want future generations of women to be able to enjoy sporting events just as much as men do, without having to fear a spike in violence, we need to work towards a world where men and women are truly equal.”