As the UK embarks on its fifth week of lockdown, reports of domestic violence soar

As the UK embarks on its fifth week of lockdown, the metropolitan police report that it has made close to 100 arrests every day in London for domestic abuse offences during the isolation period. These figures were released shortly after Karen Ingala-Smith, the founder of ‘Counting Dead Women’ made the announcement that a total of 16 women have now died in suspected domestic violence killings.

The opportunity for crime within the home has drastically increased, as domestic abuse victims are forced to spend prolonged periods of time with their perpetrators. The chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, Dr Marsha Scott told the BBC last week that “Abuse isn’t caused by being home together. It is about the opportunities. The difference is that they can control more when they are home more.”

In addition to these reports, the National Abuse charity ‘Refuge’ has reported that visits to their website for help and information are up by 150% on the number of visits made to the site 2 months ago. Phone calls to their helpline have also increased by 25% since lockdown started.

Victims of domestic abuse are no longer able to remove themselves from abusive situations, with work often being considered a ‘safe space’ for many women and men across the UK. Furthermore, victims who are currently seeking help may find themselves cut off from their usual sources of support which is more important now than ever.

Sky news has reported that there has been a surge in the number of searches made online for keywords relating to domestic abuse. According to a study by online research company ‘SEMrush’ searches for ‘what is domestic abuse?” have risen by 46%. They also reported a 64% rise in searches for ‘domestic abuse shelter’. Lisa King from the charity ‘Refuge’ believes that this is a result of people actually identifying as victims for the first time.

Sandra Horley, Refuge’s chief executive believes that the isolation period has the potential to ‘aggravate pre-existing abuse behaviours’. This supports Lisa King’s theory that it is likely that this has forced victims to recognise certain traits as abusive, and turn to online resources for help and support.

Political figures have addressed the growing concern for the safety of women and children living in volatile homes. In a column released by the Mail on Sunday, the home Secretary Ms Priti Patel pledged that domestic abusers will be punished for their crimes. Labour’s shadow policing minister Louise Haigh has called for more to be done, suggesting that the government should implement a national strategy alongside emergency funding.

The government has responded to concerns issuing further guidelines on their website, highlighting that home isolation instructions as a result of coronavirus do not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.

It is important to recognise that abuse is not just physical violence, but includes emotional abuse, controlling, threatening and coercive behaviour, verbal abuse, economic abuse and sexual abuse. Although it may feel overwhelming it is not something you should endure regardless of the current restrictions on movement. Help is available.

If you are in immediate danger, call 999. Emergency calls continue to be responded to. Remember also that if you are experiencing any form of abuse from your partner, but are reluctant to involve the police, we can help by applying for an injunction on your behalf which can, in certain circumstances, be obtained without placing the perpetrator on notice (i.e. the order can be made without the perpetrator becoming aware of the proceedings). There are two injunctions available. Firstly, a non-molestation order which would prevent your partner from causing or threatening violence and from intimidating, pestering or harassing you. The second is an occupation order which regulates who is allowed to occupy your home. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you feel that we can help in this regard.

There are also a number of domestic abuse agencies that can help and offer advice :

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline ran by the charity Refuge. They run a 24 hour phone service and their website contains written and video guides providing advice and support.

https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk

Women’s Aid service. Women’s Aid provide a live chat service and offer helpful forums for advise. Their website includes direct links to local domestic abuse services.

https://www.womensaid.org.uk

Men’s Advice Line offers confidential advice and support for male victims of domestic abuse.

https://mensadviceline.org.uk

Galop provides specialist domestic abuse helpline for members of the LGBT+ community

http://www.galop.org.uk

Chayn Offers help and provides resources for free and is a multi-lingual service

https://chayn.co

Imkaan and Southall Black Sisters offer support and address violence against black and ethnic minority women and girls.

https://www.imkaan.org.uk

https://southallblacksisters.org.uk

Further information and support can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-and-domestic-abuse/coronavirus-covid-19-support-for-victims-of-domestic-abuse

From all of us at Grant Stephens Family Law, stay safe.