Covid-19 implications for victims of domestic abuse
26 March 2020 by Lisa O'Boyle
The UK Government has announced more restrictive lockdown measures requiring people to stay at home and requiring that they should only leave their home for one of four reasons. More details can be found on the government website here.
Victims of domestic abuse who may have to be confined with an abuser for a possible minimum of 3 weeks may be at an increased risk of physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and/or coercive or controlling behaviour.
Being confined is stressful and an emotionally challenging time for all of us, but even more so for those who are presently victims of domestic abuse. There are also concerns that abusive behaviour may increase as people’s patience wears out, people’s tempers rise more easily and people’s anger issues may become difficult to manage. Some people may resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drug abuse which may, in turn, lead them to being abusive towards their partner or family.
It is already known that isolation may be used as a tool of coercive and controlling behaviour by perpetrators as they attempt to shut down victims routes to safety and support.
For useful information about safety planning, read The Women’s Aid Handbook.
What to do if you are a victim of domestic abuse?
If you are a victim of domestic abuse there are steps you can take to safeguard yourself, and you also need to consider your duty to safeguard your children, as follows:
- Keep a mobile phone with you at all times if possible.
- If you are in immediate risk, you should call 999 and the police should be able to assist.
If you are scared to be overheard by the abuser when calling 999, you can use the Silent Solution system by calling 999 then, instead of speaking to the operator, by pressing 55. The operator will transfer the call to the relevant police force as an emergency.
If you have symptoms of Covid-19, you may need to notify the police.
- You can contact national helplines, email, text and live chat support services
Due to Covid-19 measures, domestic abuse organisations will function with less staff and may have to work remotely. Therefore, these organisations may have to limit the services that they offer. However, the following support is still available:
- 24-hour National Domestic Violence, Freephone Helpline, 0808 2000 247
- Supportline provide telephone helpline and email counselling service.
- Women’s Aid provide survivors forum, a live chat Monday to Friday 10- 12pm and emails
- The Next Chapter provide telephone support focusing on safety and support and refuges remain open and taking referrals for any vacancies they may have.
Below we provide more details and a lengthier list of useful organisations who may be able to assist you.
- Advice from domestic abuse organisations, such as Women’s Aid, for those of you who are in potentially dangerous situations, is to prepare, for example as follows:
- Ensure that you have a plan in place;
- Pack a bag with clothing essentials, money, phone and charger, and your passport;
- Let a friend or family member know that they will be your “safe space contact” if anything was to happen. Make arrangements such as somewhere to stay or so that they know that they may need to come and collect you and an agreed place to do this should be made;
- Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are ways to escape where you can move to if an argument occurs;
- Keep weapons like knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible; and
- Try not to wear scarves or long jewellery that could be used to strangle you.
For more details on such advice see the Women’s Aid website and the coronavirus safety advice for survivors.
- If you are in a refuge, the Government have issued guidance on isolation for domestic abuse safe accommodation settings which can be found here.
Refuges do not need to close unless directed to by Public Health England. If you or your children show symptoms whilst in a refuge, you should remain in your own room and follow the self-isolation guidances for households as follows here.
- At Fisher Jones Greenwood we are already working remotely and we can arrange telephone and video appointments to advise you on the next steps that may be appropriate in your circumstances. For example, this may be a warning letter to the abuser or, if an associated person, making an urgent application to Court for one of the following orders:
- A non-molestation order which prohibits certain behaviour or
- An occupation order which regulates occupation of the family home and can also order one person to leave
What quickly cam applications can be made?
Applications can, if there is an immediate risk of harm, be made without notice to the abuser so that protection can be in place before any return hearing, although in the current crisis a return hearing may not be fixed, unless at the request of the respondent after he or she has been served with the order.
The Court system is obviously under pressure and is developing processes as the situation changes and as more experience is gained. Many of their staff are working remotely and new arrangements are being developed for the issuing and sealing applications and orders.
The courts have provided guidance that at this time all hearings, especially urgent hearings, are to take continue to take place but that these will take place remotely unless in exceptional circumstances. Remote hearings may take place by telephone or by using Skype for Business, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, for example.
Local Courts are expected to provide more guidance on this point.
Of course, the rules that we must follow during this pandemic are constantly changing and the government websites and advice should be checked regularly. If you would like advice about Domestic Abuse issues, please contact our Family Team at 01206 700113 or email [email protected]
List of domestic abuse organisations
- Next Chapter– Provide community support, refuge accommodation, children and young person services, counselling, group work. You can call them on 01206500585 / 01206761276
- Women’s Aid – Provide a live chat service or you can email [email protected].
- 24-hour National Domestic Violence – Is a Freephone Helpline, call 0808 2000 247.
- NCDV – National Centre for Domestic Violence – Provide help determining your eligibility for Legal Aid and getting representation for an injunction or, if not eligible for Legal Aid, helping obtain a McKenzie friend to assist you to prepare your application and at Court.
- Changing Pathways – Provide emotional support and practical assistance, including help to access emergency accommodation, assistance with safety planning, signposting/connection with other agencies, information on rights, benefits and entitlements. (Basildon, Thurrock Refuge)
- Safer Places – Provides safe accommodation, outreach support from domestic abuse professionals, one to one support and drop-in service (West Essex, Mid Essex and Hertfordshire)
- Chelmsford Women’s Aid – Support women and children who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse. They can be contacted on 01245 493114.
- Woman’s Trust – Provide individual counselling, workshops, support groups, crisis counselling. You can call them on 020 7034 0303.
- Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123
- The Men’s Advice Line – Is for male domestic abuse survivors. You can call them on 0808 801 0327
- Mankind – Is for male victims of domestic abuse. You can call them on 01823 334244.