Imagine a home where domestic abuse is a way of life.
We are being told to stay at home, work from home and avoid contact with anyone outside our immediate family. The pubs are closed, the schools are shut and each day looks as though we are getting closer and closer to a full scale UK lockdown. That means couples staying at home together, no socialising with friends, no going out to watch sports on a Saturday. All day. Every day.
Sadly, domestic violence charities across the UK fear that as more couples find themselves stuck indoors with one another, those already in abusive relationships will be unable to reach out for help. There are further fears that the stress and isolation people will face will lead to an increase in domestic violence across the country.
As we all know, Italy has been in a state of lockdown for a number of weeks now, and the data available shows that there has been a decrease in people seeking the support of Italian domestic violence charities during this time. Italy’s national women’s aid charity, D.i.Re, has confirmed that many of their regional services have seen a drop in phone calls since the lockdown took place across the country. The organisation stated that “This is due to the obvious difficulty of women (people) to call, because many believe that the anti-violence centres are “closed” while – although they’re not open to the public – they are all active via telephone and can arrange emergency interventions.”
Elaine de Fries, from Manchester Women’s Aid, states: “Obviously, ours is a confidential service and one of the things we encourage is that the perpetrator isn’t present – we say ring when they’re at work, when you’re alone. If you are both self-isolating in the same residence, that won’t be possible.”
Similarly, Samantha Fisher of Trafford Domestic Abuse Services, says that: “As many children are now at home, there is heightened anxiety and stress from financial pressures, job losses – not to mention if family members are suffering with their health after contracting coronavirus. With social distancing and self-isolation, this increases opportunities for perpetrators to control family members, they are having less contact with supportive family members, friends and support networks and whilst social media and telephone support is available, these are easily monitored by perpetrators.”
The sad reality is that being at home may result in perpetrators increasing financial control over victims, or using the situation faced by the country as an excuse for their behaviour, whether it be emotional or physical abuse. Charities fear that there will be little chance of escape, especially given that the Government’s advice is to stay at home. Coupled with this are the constant messages that the emergency services are overworked and stretched to full capacity. Will victims reach out for help, or will they remain silent?
Gemma Braithwaite from Drop In and Share (DIAS), states that: “For many of us our homes are seen as our sanctuary, our safe place, but for victims they’re the most dangerous place that they could possibly be. The reality is that in some households, you’re more at risk from your abuser than coronavirus… When normality resumes at some point in the future we will see a huge increase in demand for services like our charity as victims seek to share their experiences when they feel safe to do so.”
If and when the time is right an injunction might be the only and safest course of action.
The key message for everyone should remain the same; the charities remain open and that help is there for those who need it. Many charities offer text-based services, such as DIAS in Greater Manchester. The advice from DIAS for anyone suffering domestic abuse at home is that: “It’s important that if it’s possible you limit contact with your abuser, although you will know best how to do this. If you have children maybe set up a separate room to keep them entertained. Utilise free content on apps such as Headspace and Calm to practice grounding and take some psychological time out.”
Alternatively, we here at Maguire Family Law are experts in assisting the victims of domestic abuse. If you would like to discuss your legal options, please call us today so we can talk you through all your options. If you are unable to call us then we can also be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and via our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. We are here if you need us, day or night.