We have all seen in the news reports; the increase in calls to domestic abuse helplines and harrowingly the increase in domestic homicides during the lockdown.
This truly is the time to keep an eye out for your neighbours, relatives, friends and colleagues
Firstly: Corona virus doesn’t trigger abuse. An abuser triggers abuse. Blaming coronavirus or blaming financial worries for abuse or murder suggests anyone could become an abuser or do the same given the circumstances and this is simply not true. The responsibility for domestic abuse starts and ends with the abuser. The abuse belongs to them.
There are many known factors that increase the risks of someone being abused:
- Having a baby under 12 months old
- Lack of safe and appropriate support sources
- Age, disability or other factors, making safety strategies difficult to implement.
- Victim threatens to leave
- Perpetrator threatens suicide
- Immigration status
- Isolation from family and friends
Domestic abuse has an enormous effect on a victim’s mental health. The emotional effects of domestic abuse can cause; depression, anxiety, panic attacks, loss of self-confidence, difficulty in sleeping and concentration difficulties. It can lead to increased use of alcohol, drugs and other substances.
Ordinarily, the window for a victim of abuse to seek help is extremely limited, but during periods of isolation with perpetrators, this window narrows further.
Signs of abuse to look out for include:
- Someone is being deprived of basic needs such as food or medication.
- They are not allowed out to go out, not even once a day to the shops.
- They are not allowed to call any support services, including medical services.
If you are family, friend or a neighbour can you make your self – safely – to be that trusted friend who keeps in touch?
Are you able to encourage someone to talk to you about what they are experiencing? Could you be that friend a survivor can set up a code word/phrase to let you know that it is not safe to talk or to ask you to phone the police? Could you be that trusted person to set up a check in call so a survivor knows that someone will contact them at certain times of the week?
During the lockdown it may not be safe to ask someone about the safety of their relationship, but you can ask gentle general questions about how someone is feeling?
What you have seen may not be something that you would easily identify as abuse but you might have noticed behaviour and attitudes that make you uncomfortable. Ask how things are going at home?
If someone disclosed abuse, it is important consider what action to take. Do not just storm in.
Listen, believe and remind them that the abuse is not their fault ; What ever the circumstances violence, abuse and control can not be justified.
Explain that they are not alone ;help and support is available. This will give the person hope for the future.
Encourage them to either contact the police( reassure them that the police will come ) or a specialist domestic abuse support organisations. What ever safe means of communication you have keep them open.
Do not approach the perpetrator, this could escalate the abuse and put you and the victim/survivor at risk of harm.
Make sure you keep your self-informed.
-National Domestic abuse helpline 0808 2000 247 .You can speak to specialist domestic abuse services for advice and support .Helpline staff can discuss a survivor’s rights and options with a third party and are able to signpost useful services that they can pass on, such as community-based outreach services.
If someone is in danger call 999