How to seek help for domestic abuse during lockdown
According to abuse and violence charity, LWA, domestic abuse will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime. However, with the UK now in lockdown and families and couples spending an increased amount of time together inside, we’re seeing a worrying increase in those averages.
Since the UK went into lockdown on 23rd March, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, Refuge, reported a 700% increase in calls to its helpline in a single day. So what can those who feel threatened or unsafe do to protect themselves during this unique situation? And who is most at risk?
What counts as domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse can be defined as incidents or patterns of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour. It can include sexual violence and, in the majority of cases, by a partner or ex-partner. It can also be by a family member or carer.
Domestic violence can take many forms, including:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional/mental abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Financial abuse, i.e. not allowing you to access money
Get in touch with our specialist team
For this type of enquiry, we offer an initial assessment for up to 30 minutes free of charge. We will discuss any subsequent costs with you in advance.
Who is most at risk from domestic abuse?
According to recent figures from the Metropolitan police, cases of ‘Cinderella’ abuse involving attacks by women and girls on family members have risen twice as fast as those by men.
The report shows that domestic abuse offences committed by sisters have doubled from 641 in 2010 to 1,325 in 2018. It also quadrupled for stepsisters and half-sisters from 33 to 142.
Female perpetrators now account for 28% of cases; up from 19% a decade ago. However, despite this rise in female perpetrators, male partners and ex-partners remain the predominant perpetrators of domestic abuse.
Unfortunately, as we spend more time within the same four walls during lockdown, there’s limited or sometimes no time to get away. With less distractions from the outside world, there are more opportunities for abuse to happen at home. Those in abusive relationships may find themselves without the solace of leaving the house for work or to meet friends. The perpetrators will be without the same distractions, meaning more time spent together. Unfortunately, this means there’s more time for things to go wrong.
How can a domestic abuse victim get help during lockdown?
The usual advice of calling 999 or a specialised charity for help may not be appropriate during this time. The same for ‘excuses’ such as popping to the shops and making that call, or visiting a website during the work commute.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct have launched the Silent Solution as a way of combating the fear of making a call to 999 and being seen or heard. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, simply call 999 from a mobile and, when prompted, press 55. This puts you through to the police and a call handler will ask questions in an attempt to communicate. You may also be asked to cough or tap the keys on your phone in response to the operator’s questions.
You can also chat to a female support worker from Womens Aid on their live chat, who keep everything confidential and will help support you as best they can. If you’re using a shared computer or device and you’re worried about the perpetrator seeing that you’ve visited this site, you can follow this guidance on covering your tracks online.
The above provide options for emergency help, and you should always dial 999 if you’re in an urgent situation. However, once out of immediate danger, you should also consider taking legal action to prevent the perpetrator from carrying out further violence.
How we can help
Our specialist domestic abuse team are available Monday to Friday to provide emergency assistance. They can apply for a Non-Molestation Order. This prevents your former partner from using or threatening violence, harassing you and coming near your property. Breach of an injunction is an arrestable offence and the police must be notified immediately if the order is breached.
An additional order, known as an Occupation Order, can also be obtained from the court in certain circumstances. It ensures that your partner leaves your home and is prevented from living there for a defined period of time. The police can assist if necessary.
If you are the victim of domestic abuse and need to speak to someone, contact us on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form. We will arrange for you to speak with a member of the domestic abuse team the same day (or within 24 hours) where emergency protection is required.
We will do all we can to help, providing support throughout the process so you are safe and protected.