What support is available for victims of violence in the home during lockdown?
There has been much discussion on the news and social media over the past week about the impact of lockdown on couples and families in the same household. The BBC reported that the government should be putting together a strategy on how to deal with the rising figures of abuse at home.
This sparked further discussion, lead by Ester McVey MP, on whether the term ‘domestic abuse’ is archaic and actually, necessary at all.
Violence in the home is just as serious as violence out in public. The term ‘domestic’ actually seems to detract from the seriousness of crime. It is effectively an umbrella term for offences including Actual Bodily Harm and/ or Grievous Bodily Harm. In the worst of cases, domestic abuse can involve Attempted Murder or Murder itself and yet, it is rare that it is reported as such.
Since the lockdown started, we have seen the following spike in the figures relating to abuse in the home:
- In the first week of lockdown, there was a 35% increase in calls to Men’s Advice Line from male victims of abuse.
- In the first 3 weeks of lockdown, 14 women and 2 children were killed at home. This was reported on by researchers at the ‘Counting Dead Women Project’ and therefore there is also the unknown figure of males to consider too. According to the project, this figure is the largest number of killings in a three-week period for 11 years in the UK and more than double the average rate.
- In addition, the number of calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline run by Refuge was 25% above average in the second week of lockdown and 49% higher than normal after three weeks.
- In the six weeks up to 19 April 2020, the Metropolitan Police reported to have made more than 4,000 arrests in London in connection with domestic abuse incidents, with charges and cautions rising 24% compared to the same period last year.
But what is being done about it?
MPs are urging the government to focus their efforts on reducing these numbers and raising awareness about the surge.
On 2 May 2020, the government announced that they would invest funds into a multitude of charities to help them to continue their incredible work during the pandemic. Some £28,000 of that fund is reported to have been allocated to providing accommodation, safe spaces and new online services to domestic abuse victims. But is that enough?
Charities across the country are urging people to get in touch in any way they can, with some introducing covert apps and others a text message service. Shops such as Boots have introduced safe spaces where customers can ask to use their consultation rooms to contact services for help and advice. In addition, Cumbria police have approached postal workers and delivery drivers to ask them to watch out for key signs of abuse, while other forces have urged those in need to reach out to neighbours or friends with concealed messages.
As well as seeking physical and emotional support for domestic abuse in lockdown, it is important to also think about what legal remedies might be available to victims.
Family Law Courts remian open and cases involving violence at home are being prioritised as urgent cases to be heard. Some hearings will be conducted remotely, either by telephone or video call, and equally, some are still going ahead face to face. This depends on the urgency of the situation and how the court deal with the case but they are prioritising the most urgent applications to provide protection to victims when they need it.
Specialist family law solicitors across the country are still able to provide legal advice and support to those at need it (whether in the office or by remote services).
In the most urgent cases, the court may deem it appropriate to make an order without first notifying the perpetrator of the abuse, and in the lockdown situation, this may become more frequent.
The court is able to make a variety of orders to protect victims of abuse, to include protection from harassment, violence or threat of violence, verbal, psychological or emotional abuse and in some cases, the perpetrator can be forced to leave the family home.
If you are in a situation at home where you feel you need protection from your partner or spouse from domestic violence or you wish to know what legal options you have to safeguard yourself and/or your children then please get in touch with us on 01625 544650 or alternatively contact us by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Furthermore, you may wish to consider contacting one or more of the following:
- The Police – If you are in danger you should always report matters to the police. If you are unable to talk on the phone, call 999 and listen to the questions from the operator and if possible, respond by either coughing or tapping the head set. If you’re calling from a mobile but can’t speak due to the situation, ‘Make Yourself Heard’ by pressing 55. For more information on this option visit here.
- National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
- The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
- Galop National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428