Abuse charities in the UK have experienced record numbers of calls during the coronavirus outbreak as the lockdown has trapped victims at home with their abuser.
The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help, since government restrictions came into effect at the end of March. There have been moves to use empty hotels as safe places for victims to escape to, in an attempt to meet the extra demand and supplement help available from refuges and support services.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of charity Refuge, said perpetrators already use isolation “as a tool of control” and that lockdown has make it even easier for a perpetrator to restrict freedom.
Domestic abuse is not always physical and includes controlling, threatening and coercive behaviour, all of which may have been intensified over the last few months of lockdown. It is even more difficult for victims to seek help when their abuser is in the same house or room, preventing them from using the phone or accessing online services.
Many domestic abuse charities have responded to the Covid-19 lockdown by extending their hours and making it easier for victims to make contact. Refuge is operating 24/7 and has an online contact form and extra resources on its website to help those who are being abused. Their website also has a special button so that the pages can be hidden quickly if an abuser enters the room.
In Yorkshire, IDAS, the region’s largest specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence charity, has extended its online Live Chat service. This aims to make sure help is available, even to those who are isolated with someone they are afraid of. The charity saw a 30% increase in the use of its live chat service in March compared to the same month last year and has responded by extending the hours the service is available.
A key message from abuse charities during the pandemic has been that you are not alone. Support services are doing whatever they can to offer extra support and advice to help people cope when they feel stuck with an abuser.
Some of the tips they have been sharing to make life in quarantine more bearable include trying to find small ways of taking care of your wellbeing, whether that is cuddling a pet, doing some yoga, watching a feelgood film or going for a walk. Techniques for managing an abusive situation include trying not to engage with an argument, avoiding known triggers and finding plausible reasons to leave the house, perhaps to go shopping for a vulnerable neighbour or relative.
If you or your children are in danger, there is no need to wait to seek help. Services are still operating and many have expanded their hours and availability of safe places to stay in response to the crisis.
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is open 24 hours a day at 0808 2999 247 or online at https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/
The IDAS live chat facility can be found at https://www.idas.org.uk/
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Laura Mounsey is a family lawyer with experience of working on cases involving properties, trusts, businesses and pensions. Laura is a dedicated and talented lawyer who has been recognised with a “Safe Pair of Hands” Award.
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