What is being done for domestic abuse victims during Covid-19?

With isolation and financial abuse common features of domestic abuse relationships, what is being done to help those in danger as the UK’s current lockdown conditions leave vulnerable people exposed to a heightened risk of violence.

By Tara Pilkington

The UK officially went into lockdown on March 23rd, and with a three-week extension announced yesterday (March 16th). But what is being done to safeguard those who are currently being forced to isolate within abusive households at a time when public services are already being stretched? 

When asked about necessary funding to support survivors of domestic abuse during Prime Minister’s Questions a couple of weeks ago, Boris Johnson replied: “We’ve just put record funding back into councils to support them in all their responsibilities… we are committed to bringing forward a victims’ law to guarantee victim’s rights”

While it is still too soon to know the full impact on gender violence as a result of Covid-19, it is well documented that when communities undergo additional stress, that rates of violence rise, and initial stats from domestic violence charity Refuge have shown that there has already been a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help since the lockdown began.

The current lockdown conditions and the subsequent impact that they have had on employment (in the UK it’s been predicted that unemployment could rise to two million) will contribute to a devastating combination of emotions that could see abuse rise as partners become increasingly volatile, with the usual escape routes for victims being cut off.

For those that are unable to make an emergency phone call whilst at home, The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is offering the option of contacting the service through their website which features a quick exit button for those who may have their devices monitored.

In Spain’s Canary Islands, the Institute for Equality has launched a campaign called Mascarilla-19 which emphasises that escaping an abuse is a valid reason to leave your household. This campaign allows women who may be experiencing violence at home to go to their nearest pharmacy and request ‘Mask-19’. Pharmacy staff will then take the victim’s name, address and number and alert the emergency services to the situation.

As pharmacies are widespread among the places that are still allowed to remain open during lockdown, they have become increasingly important safe spaces for those seeking help to get away from abuse.

Currently the police are emphasising that anyone facing abuse at home during the lockdown should still report their experiences and seek support from domestic abuse services.

For more information and support on domestic abuse, contact:

  • Police: 999 press 55 when prompted if you can’t speak
  • Refuge UK wide 24-hour helpline: 0808 2000 247
  • Welsh Women’s Aid Live Fear Free 24-hour helpline: 0808 80 10 800
  • Scotland National Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriages 24-hour helpline: 0800 027 1234
  • Northern Ireland Domestic Abuse 24-hour helpline: 0808 802 1414

Photo by Molly Belle on Unsplash

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