Domestic abuse during COVID-19 - Amie Calder of WSP Solicitors
It's true that for many of us home is a place of safety in a time of chaos and uncertainty.
But for thousands of victims of domestic abuse across the UK, home is a place of violence and fear. Amie Calder, family solicitor at WSP discusses what this could mean in the current climate of self-isolation due to the coronavirus.
Due to social distancing and lockdown measures that have been in place, it seems that the increase in domestic abuse predicted is now becoming a reality.
The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25 per cent increase in calls and online requests for help since the lockdown, the charity Refuge says. It received hundreds more calls last week compared to two weeks earlier.
There is little doubt that self-isolation will be a ticking time bomb for many people trapped inside with their abuser, whose behaviour may be aggravated by the chaos and uncertainty unleashed by COVID-19.
It is not only adult victims that are at risk. With schools having been closed, those children who live with abusive parents (either towards themselves or someone else in the house), will be enduring much greater hardship and fear. For some children, going to school is respite from the abuse.
What is domestic abuse?
Women's Aid define domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.
Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
- Psychological and/or emotional abuse
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Financial or economic abuse
- Harassment and stalking
- Online abuse
Domestic abuse whilst self-isolating
If any member of a household is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, such as a cough or a high temperature, the advice is for the whole household to self-isolate. This can mean that if a perpetrator of domestic abuse is forced to stay at home that victims are likely to be at risk of further abuse.
It's estimated that 1.6 million women in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse last year, and it's overwhelmingly women who endure repeated attacks (83 per cent of victims of more than 10 incidents are women). The risk is that under self-isolation, controlling perpetrators will further restrict their partner's freedoms and threaten their safety.
What should I do if I am at risk of domestic abuse?
If you are at risk of domestic abuse, we would encourage you to telephone the Police on 999 if it is an emergency and on 101 if you wish to report an incident.
You should also contact your local family solicitor. There are legal options available for victims of domestic abuse:
- Non-molestation orders stop a perpetrator from using or threatening violence towards the victim, stops them contacting the victim in any way and excludes them from a certain distance of their home.
- Occupation orders will force a perpetrator out of a property and not allow them to come back within a certain time frame.
There are also measures that can be put in place to protect children such as:
- Prohibited steps orders that stop a perpetrator from taking a child from a victim and specific issue orders to ask for the return of a child where a perpetrator has taken them from a victim and the child is at risk.
Victims can also apply for child arrangements orders for the child to live with them.
You may also be eligible for legal aid.
Emergency help for domestic abuse
It is worth familiarising yourself with The Silent Solution system. This is a system for victims of domestic abuse who might be afraid of further danger and escalation of harm if they are overheard when calling 999 in an emergency.
When somebody calls 999, an operator will ask which emergency service is required. If the caller is unable to audibly signal to the operator, the call will be forwarded to an operating system.
If 55 is pressed by the caller, the system will detect it and the operator will then transfer the call to the relevant police force as an emergency.
For those in need of help or support, contact:
- Women's Aid at womensaid.org.uk or on 0808 200 0247 (24 hours).
- Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service (GDASS) on 01452 726 570 or at https://www.gdass.org.uk/
WSP Solicitors have offices in Stroud, Gloucester and Dursley and have been serving Gloucestershire for more than 250 years.
To reach out to WSP for help on any legal matter you can contact us through our website where our dedicated family team will be on hand to call you at the most convenient time. https://wspsolicitors.com/legal-services/for-you/family-law/
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