For abusers, the lockdown has provided the ‘perfect storm’ to enact mental and physical abuse in a relationship. As couples spend more and more time together, and with less social interaction or the ability to leave the home, abusers have seen their opportunity to increase both mental and physical abuse.
Although not all cases result in physical harm, mental abuse is equally as damaging. Abusers have taken this opportunity to isolate their victims from friends and family and have the ability to control, coerce and ‘gaslight’. At the extreme end of the scale, there has also been a marked rise in the number of deaths from domestic abuse.
An article by the BBC spoke to a victim of domestic abuse whose situation became increasingly worse after the lockdown was announced. Tara (real name redacted from original article), said the abuse started subtly. Initially, the abuser would “Isolate me from my family and friends… thinking I'm cheating on him when I'm with him all the time… just controlling “. She says that it's obviously been getting worse, since the lockdown."
"As soon as he gets up, he tries to cause an argument out of nothing, and if I fire back he'll just hit me."
Tara has recently fled her abusive partner and has found refuge. For many other women in this position, the story is completely different.
A recent Twitter campaign by Counting Dead Women, which tracks violence carried out against women has found that during the period between 23rd March to 12th April 2020, there was evidence that 16 women had been killed – a huge increase. Looking at the previous ten years, the average killed during the same timeframe was five.
Campaigners against domestic realised the problem would be exasperated further during lockdown due to the unique situation, and the ability to hide abuse ‘behind closed doors’ at a time when social interaction has been minimised. Dame Vera Bird QC, The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales citied the findings from the Twitter study whilst providing evidence in an emergency meeting to the Home Affairs Select Committee. She has urged the Government to take the matter seriously and has requested a range of measures to be put in place to protect vulnerable women and tackle the issue.
One of the biggest problems faced by victims of abuse is the confusion around the services available to them, and how to access these safely. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is open 24 hours a day and can advise victims on the best way to proceed with the situation. The service is available 24 hours a day by calling 0808 2000 247.
As always, Holmes Family Law is also offering a free consultation to victims of domestic abuse. Our advice line is available 24/7 by calling 0191 5009337 or 01670 707338 during office hours and 0191 5009338 at all other times. Our friendly and understanding team will advise you around the best course of action based on your situation and make any arrangements necessary to facilitate a safe passage out of the situation.
Depending on the situation, we can also advise on further steps including Occupation and Non-Molestation Orders.
If the situation is urgent, or your life is in immediate danger – always call 999.