Susan J Williams Partner and Head of Family Department (Cardiff)
Preventing a domestic violence pandemic
Since March, we have all had to adjust to the new reality of Coronavirus. Now with the second national lockdown on the horizon in England, a ‘fire break’ lockdown underway in Wales and tiered restrictions being imposed in Scotland, we will all again retreat to our homes in order to protect ourselves, the vulnerable and our NHS.
Whilst our homes are intended to protect us, unfortunately for many, home is far from a safe haven. For those who are the victims of domestic abuse, these restrictions will pose a very real and imminent threat.
In recent months, we have all invariably experienced increased anxiety and pressure as we face changes to our daily routines and increasing economic uncertainty. These pressures may aggravate violent behaviour whilst simultaneously making these behaviours harder to spot. Whilst most of us have the support of our families whom we live with to help us through these difficult times - this is not the reality for some victims.
With families now being confined to their homes, vulnerable victims are spending increased time with the perpetrator without any of the respite their daily lives would usually provide. Social isolation and distancing are key characteristics of coercive control and domestic abuse. Current self-isolation measures are now exacerbating the isolation felt by many victims of abuse who feel that they have nowhere to go and nobody to turn to.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 1.6 million women and 786,000 men were victims of domestic abuse in the UK last year. During the initial lockdown, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity Refuge reported a 700% increase in calls in a single day in April. Global statistics show that levels of domestic violence have increased by 20% causing the UN to describe domestic abuse as a ‘shadow pandemic’.
It is vital that victims of domestic abuse do not feel abandoned and are aware of the sources of help available. There are numerous avenues for support and agencies are operating to help give advice, support and help victims flee from abusive homes. Many charities have now moved online so that victims can contact them confidentially and without the risks of being overheard on the phone.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, confirmed that domestic violence victims are permitted to leave their homes to seek help or escape their partner during lockdown. If you are a victim of abuse you and your children are permitted to leave your home in order to seek help, whether this be to a family member or a refuge. It is vital that these services are made known and available so that victims do not suffer in silence.
We have a dedicated Family Team who are able to provide both urgent advice to protect your safety and advise on what legal recourse may be available. If you need help and would like to speak to us, please contact Susan J Williams, Head of the Family Department on 07736969373 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice and to help you navigate through this difficult time.
This article was written by Victoria Griffiths, Paralegal at Ince.