Domestic abuse pandemic
Updated: Mar 5
As the whole world is in the grip of the covid-19 pandemic, everyone is being made to stay at home to slow down the spread of the virus, but what if home isn’t safe either?
This is a problem for many people during this difficult time, because on top of the expected worries around health and income, many are having to face being locked in with an abusive partner, and consequently there has been a surge in domestic violence cases.
Activists say how an increase in abuse is a pattern repeated in many emergencies, and quarantine rules pose a particular challenge.
Rachel Williams, a domestic abuse survivor, said that victims will “feel more isolated than ever” and they will “have no breathing space” as they are forced to stay at home.
Refuge, one of the leading domestic abuse charities in the UK, saw a 700% increase in calls to their helpline in just one day. Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of the charity, said how the lockdown situation is another way for an abuser to exert control, as well as being able to cut off critical lines of communication. Lockdown definitely makes victims more vulnerable.
“While in lockdown or self-isolation, women and children are likely to be spending concentrated periods of time with perpetrators, potentially escalating the threat of domestic abuse and further restricting their freedom.”
The statistics are supporting these predictions too. The Counting Dead Women campaign revealed that at least 10 women and children have been killed by men they knew since lockdown started.
It cannot be forgotten that men are victims too though. It is estimated that 1.6 million women and 786,000 men experience domestic abuse in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019. With 2020 going with way it is, these figures are expected to rise significantly.
Across the globe, shocking stories have come to light. One victim reported how her husband threatened to throw her out if she coughed. Another said she had been strangled but was scared of going to hospital because of corona. From these cases we can see how abusers use covid not only as a way of keeping their victims trapped inside, but as a reason to hurt and threaten them.
Home Secretary, Priti Patel has launched a new public awareness campaign to remind victims that they are not alone. Two million pounds will come from the government to help charities and organisations deal with the increase in cases. This contribution is set to increase as the situation continues.
The money will help keep hotlines and online support up and running for people to turn too. The Home Secretary said how these platforms are “working flat out” to help people. Additionally, it will connect victims to emergency accommodation, which she stressed are still open, and victims can leave their home to get to safety, despite the lockdown rules.
Victims Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, has suggested that a rescue system needs to be introduced. The emergency code of ‘Ask for Angela’ is used in bars to subtly signal a victim in distress, she thinks that something could be introduced to supermarkets for a victim to get help.
How to get help
· Call 999 and respond to questions by coughing or tapping the head set if you cannot talk
· If you’re ringing on a mobile phone, ring 999 then press 55 for a silent helpline
· Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247
· Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims: 0808 801 0327
· Women’s Aid also has a Live Chat on their website: https://www.womensaid.org.uk