Domestic abuse in the coronavirus lockdown
24 March 2020
In the next few weeks we will see a significant rise in families having to self-isolate due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Whilst many joke that relationships will be tested during this time, there have already been increases in rates of domestic abuse internationally. It is critical that those who suffer in an abusive relationship know that there is support available to them.
Domestic abuse and isolation
Domestic abuse can consist of, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:
- physical violence
- emotional and psychological violence
- financial abuse
- coercive control.
The impact of self-isolating whilst in an abusive relationship has the potential to intensify an already dangerous situation. An increase of stress and anxiety combined with long periods together in a household can easily transform a home into an unsafe space.
In terms of physical abuse, the self-isolation measures may lead to excessive alcohol consumption which in turn may cause further violence. Physical marks on a victim will not be as noticeable to other people if the victim is unable to leave the house for a long period.
Additionally, perpetrators of domestic abuse may exploit the victim’s anxiety about their financial circumstances and control more of their money in order to ‘support’ the household.
What should I do?
It is essential that if you and/or your children are in immediate risk that you call the police on 999. Domestic abuse is a crime and the police are equipped to deal with these situations.
There are many charities that can provide support and refuge during and after this time:
- National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
- The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
- National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
- Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123
- The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
- Women’s Aid Live Chat and email services
- Respect Helpline – 0808 802 4040
- Leeway Domestic Violence & Abuse Services (Norfolk based) – 0300 561 0077.
A common thread of advice from these charities is to have a close contact, a family member or trusted friend, who you can call and possibly stay with if things escalate and you need to leave the home immediately. A safe place and safe word or phrase should be agreed with the trusted third party in advance as abusers may be listening in on calls or reading text messages.
Court orders for domestic abuse victims
People experiencing domestic abuse can contact us to talk about the options available to them.
Remedies available are non-molestation and occupation orders. A non-molestation order protects people and children who suffer from any violence, threats of violence and also intimidation, harassment or pestering. You do not have to be a spouse to apply for this order as it covers a wide range of people living in the same household. Non-molestation orders are made for a set period of time, usually 6 to12 months but they can be extended. A breach of this order is a criminal offence and the police have the power to arrest.
An occupation order regulates the occupation of the home. It can exclude the abuser from the home completely or from certain areas within the home. As per the non-molestation orders, you do not have to be a spouse to apply for the order.
It should be noted that stress and self-isolation does not cause domestic abuse but has the potential to increase it and intensify any existing controlling behaviours. If you have any concerns about a victim or survivor of domestic abuse, consider making contact to ensure they are safe. However, as stated above, you must always be aware the perpetrator may be listening in to phone calls and checking text messages so exercise caution.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at March 2020.