Victims of domestic and family violence are being urged to still seek help during the lockdown, with service providers reminding residents that leaving the house for this purpose is an essential activity.
Housing Plus's head of community services Penny Dordoy said that while domestic violence reporting rates don't initially increase during lockdowns, the severity of intimate partner and family abuse certainly did.
"Often perpetrators use COVID as a means to control victims of domestic violence with misinformation. That's one of the key things we're hearing. A lot of misinformation goes around [and perpetrators will use it], telling [their victims] they can't leave or they're not protecting their children or they're not doing the right thing for their family," Ms Dordoy said.
"So it's really important for us to get the right information out at the right time so that people know exactly what they can and can't do.
"If you are fleeing domestic violence, you are not restricted by any COVID restrictions... and we absolutely encourage them to do so in any way they can. So if it means going to a friend's house or coming to a service - they absolutely can and should."
Even if women were not ready to leave the homes where they were experiencing domestic abuse yet, they could still contact service providers and even go to Housing Plus's Byng Street offices for advice throughout the lockdown.
While Orange's only refuge for women and their children escaping domestic violence was full and had been since it opened in February, one positive to come from the region's lockdown was that the normally booked-out motels in the city actually now had vacancy for Housing Plus to accommodate people needing somewhere safe to stay.
Ms Dordoy also urged those with pets or older children to reach out for help, as they could also be provided with somewhere safe.
"During the last lockdown we found that women were accessing our service less. And I think [that was] because some of those informal places where they might talk to neighbours or talk to friends had been taken away," Ms Dordoy said.
"So we're really hoping that people will use their one hour of exercise... to contact us."
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence in the local area, help is available by calling 1300 DV Help.
Counselling is also available by calling 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, or visiting www.1800RESPECT.org.au.
In an emergency, call 000.
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