Domestic abuse is on the rise, we spoke to Sarah Davidge from Women’s Aid to discuss the impact Covid-19 is having on victims of abuse
* if you are in immediate danger and are unable to talk on the phone, please call 999 and then press 55, this will transfer you to the relevant police who will help *
Two weeks after the lockdown was announced on 23rd March, 10 women and 2 children had been killed at home by men in the UK. As more time has passed, there are now 16 suspected domestic violence murders across the country. The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls, along with a 150% increase of visits to their website since February, and the number of domestic violence-related arrests are totalling to an average of 100 a day across the UK.
Domestic abuse is not solely physical, it comes in many ugly forms and could be happening without you realising. If your partner is manipulating any form of control over you, be that psychological, emotional, physical, financial, or sexual then you are a victim of abuse. If your partner is controlling your communication with others either online or in person, then you are a victim of abuse.
Speaking to Sarah Davidge, Research and Evaluation Manager at Women’s Aid, there is a serious concern that this pandemic is threatening to escalate such forms of abuse. Survivors have explained to the organisation how perpetrators are ‘’using Covid-19 as part of their abuse and failing to take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus’’.
There is also an increasing worry that for survivors of domestic abuse, there is reduced access to support services. Sarah explained how from experience, Women’s Aid knows that ‘’without urgent action, our life-saving national network of domestic abuse services could be overwhelmed by the scale of need. Every major disaster and pandemic globally have shown us that.’’ The timing of this pandemic is also something Women Aid is anxious about, with Sarah stressing how the domestic abuse sector has been facing a funding crisis with ‘’the number of refuge bed spaces in England already 30% below the number recommended by the Council of Europe’’.
However, positive steps are being made to combat domestic violence. On 3rd March 2020, the government re-introduced the domestic abuse bill in Parliament, this has the potential to create a significant change in the way we respond to this issue and to help create a more effective approach on tackling abuse. Last week in Parliament, the government announced their pledge to fund £76 million for charities across the UK to help survivors of domestic and sexual abuse as well as victims of modern-day slavery. Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick addressed the public and stated that no one has to choose between staying somewhere unsafe or becoming homeless. The secretary also announced that victims of domestic violence will receive priority for local housing, adding: “the true evil of domestic abuse is that it leaves vulnerable people including children living in fear in the very place where they should feel most safe and secure: inside their own home.”
If you are a victim of abuse here are some contacts:
Women’s Aid Online Live Chat service: www.womensaid.org.uk
This link will take you to the Women’s Aid live chat service where you will be able to talk to a member of their team in confidence and at complete discretion.
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 2000 247 and https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/Chat-to-us-online
This service is available from Monday to Friday between 3 pm-6 pm, or you can ring them on the number provided for 24-hour service. If it is an emergency, however, then you must call 999.
Solace Women’s Aid Advice for London:
Solace Advice Line- 0808 802 5565 (available between 10 am-4 pm on Monday’s to Fridays)
Solace Rape Crisis Helpline- Monday & Friday 10am – 2pm, Tuesday 10am – 1pm, 6pm – 8pm, Wednesday & Thursday 1pm – 5pm. Email: email@example.com. Alternatively, contact The London Survivors Gateway at 0808 801 0860 or https://survivorsgateway.london/
Rape Crisis helplines and online chat: 08088 029 999 and https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-help/coronavirus
Rape Crisis Centres provide specialist support and services for survivors of sexual violence, whether it happened recently or a long time ago.
Their webchat helpline provides online, text-based emotional support for women and girl survivors aged 16 and over. It is an anonymous and confidential service.
If you are deaf or unable to verbally communicate:
Register with the emergencySMSservice . Text REGISTER to 999. You will then receive a text which will tell you what to do next, you must do this when it is safe so in the future you are easily able to communicate when you are in danger.
If you are unable to access a phone or internet service then you can also go into your nearest Boots store, where there will be safe spaces available, such as consultation rooms where you can contact domestic abuse support services for free safely.
Words By Grace Dembowicz