Few of us can deny that the last few months have been challenging, yet for an increasing number of people, the period of enforced lockdown has meant even greater suffering through unbearable and unacceptable levels of abuse in their homes.
Such abuse can take many different forms including emotional abuse, physical or sexual abuse or threats and intimidation, all situations where an abuser or abusers seek to gain power and control over their victim.
This sudden surge in domestic abuse towards women and also men and those who identify as LGBT+ has lead to calls for an effective government strategy to tackle the rise in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and to offer more ways in which victims can more easily seek the help they need.
Many domestic abuse charities are also campaigning for greater funding to support their increasingly busy helplines and online support services. There are also calls for safe spaces to be expanded into shops and supermarkets where victims can more easily seek help.
The figures are shocking. Refuge, just one of the charities with a national abuse helpline in place reported a rise in calls of 49% after only three weeks of lockdown compared to their normal average for the time of year. Men are at risk too with Men’s Advice Line reported a similar trend with a rise in calls of 35%.
Without doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has created scenarios for many where they are both at greater risk of domestic abuse and less able to seek the timely help and support they need. Victims may feel trapped in their homes with their abusers or forced to rely on them for help with daily tasks. It might also become impossible to avoid tension and to gain space when they feel it rising.
These issues are all compounded by an increasing difficulty for men and women to access informal support from friends and colleagues. As national and local lockdowns and working from home are now a part of life and social interactions are far fewer than before.
It is important to remember that support is still available and the advice to self-isolate doesn’t apply if you need to escape from any form of abuse. Many chemists already offer designated safe spaces where an individual can go, to contact support services, friends, family or helplines. A list of participating chemists can be found here.
It is also important for victims of domestic abuse to remember that they are not alone and the abuse they are going through is neither justified nor their own fault. Getting help and advice is important but so is careful thought about who we might tell as, if a partner or abuser finds out, it could make things worse.
Domestic abuse shouldn’t be something any of us are ever faced with, but unfortunately it can happen to any of us. Recognising the signs and knowing that help is still out there during the COVID-19 pandemic is vital.
If you are affected by domestic abuse, regardless of your gender, help is available from sources such as those below.
• Anyone can talk to their GP, health visitor or midwife
• Women can access The National Domestic Abuse Helpine on 0808 2000 247
• Men can access the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 8010 327
• And Mankind Initiative 08123 334 244 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm)
• People who identify as LGBT+ can access Galop on 0800 999 5428
• Those affected by honour crimes and forced marriages can seek advice and support from Karma Nirvana on 0800 5999 247
• In an emergency call 999