Coronavirus: Domestic Abuse
For many, home can seem like a place of safety in these uncertain times. However, for those who experience domestic abuse, home is often a place of fear. Following government guidelines for mass self-isolation on the 23 March, it is expected that reports of domestic abuse will surge. This follows the same pattern as the summer and Christmas holiday periods as abusers will be spending more time with their families.
There is a serious risk that due to self-isolation, the victim will have no escape from the perpetrator’s behaviour towards them and even their children. This comes at a time where the necessary support services are struggling to function due to the government guidelines and an existing funding crisis.
It is well known that many abusers use isolation as a way of controlling their partner and there may be less opportunities for someone to seek help and an increased chance of physical injury if there is no one to notice the bruises and injuries. Domestic abuse does not always leave a physical mark. Controlling and coercive behaviour are also forms of domestic abuse.
Whilst self-isolation is both important and essential to help combat the spread of COVID-19, it may shut down routes to support and safety for those victims of domestic abuse and mean that they are unable to find help or time away from the perpetrator.
Reports from China show a huge surge in domestic violence and abuse since the outbreak of COVID-19, in fact cases have almost doubled, which offers a warning of what the situation could become here. The Twitter hashtag #AntiDomesticViolenceDuringEpidemic has been trending on social media recently and can be seen as a positive in ensuring that victims do not feel alone and completely isolated during these unprecedented times and raising awareness. But this can only go so far.
Government action is required to ensure that all those who experience domestic abuse get the protection and support needed when in isolation, especially when the already high levels of domestic abuse cases are taken into consideration. It is estimated that 1.6 million women and 786,000 men in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse last year (2019).
On 23rd March 2020, the UK government published guidance for providers of safe accommodation for victims of domestic abusers and affected children. The guidance stipulates that refuges and other forms of domestic abuse safe accommodation do not need to close unless directed told to do so by Public Health England or the government. This is because refuges, shared houses and other forms of emergency safe accommodation are usually considered households for the purposes of the household self-isolation policy.
There are legal remedies available for victims of domestic abuse which include applying for a non-molestation order or an occupation order. This can be done by an urgent application to Court which will set out why the order is required and be supported by a statement setting out the facts of the situation. Both these applications can be made where there has been not only physical violence but also where threats and harassment have been used. A non-molestation order is aimed at preventing this behaviour by preventing direct contact and general communication amongst other things. A breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence and the perpetrator can be arrested.
An occupation order directs who can live in the family home, or certain parts of it and the surrounding area if necessary.
Whilst the Courts are gearing up to receive applications via email rather than post or emergency applications in person, along with undertaking hearings via video conferencing, it is unclear how long it will take to implement these measures or how successful they will be.
Legal aid is available for victims of domestic abuse.
At Keebles we appreciate that there may be certain times of the day which would be easier for victims of domestic violence to speak and we are happy to arrange a free half hour initial consultation do discuss the options available. Please contact Joe Bartlett on firstname.lastname@example.org or call Joe on 0114 252 1435.
As well as Court Applications there are a number of helplines and organisations that may be able to assist during this difficult time:
- EVAW (End Violence Against Women) | 020 3735 8219
- Man Kind Initiative | 01823 334244
- National Domestic Violence helpline | 0808 200 0247
- National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline | 0800 999 5428
- Rape Crisis | 0808 802 9999
- Refuge | 0808 200 0247
- Respect helpline (for anyone worried about their own behaviour) | 0808 802 0321
- The National Centre of Domestic Violence | 0800 970 2070 – The NCDV provides a free emergency injunction service to survivors of domestic violence regardless of their financial circumstances, race, gender or sexual orientation
- Women’s Aid | 0808 200 0247