Sadly, it has been reported that the National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help since the coronavirus lockdown has been in force.
Visits to the UK-wide National Domestic Abuse helpline website for information were 150% higher in the last week in March than during the last week in February.
Campaigners believe that incidents of domestic violence and potentially murder will escalate as social distancing restrictions continue as perpetrators use isolation as a further means of control and warned the restrictions could heighten domestic tensions and cut off escape routes for victims.
Police are emphasising that women and men facing abuse at home during the lockdown should still report their experiences to police and seek support from domestic abuse services. The Home Secretary, Pritti Patel, has said that she is aware that “home is not a safe haven for everyone” and pledged that domestic abusers will be punished for their crimes. Ms Patel has said “My message to every potential victim is simple: we have not forgotten you and we will not let you down. And my message to every perpetrator is equally simple: you will not get away with your crimes.”
Victims of domestic abuse often feel incredibly isolated and the recent lockdown by the government is exacerbating this isolation. Campaigners have highlighted that being in lockdown with your abuser could mean that people are not only more vulnerable to domestic violence, but also possibly less likely to be able to make an emergency phone call. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline therefore offers the option of contacting them through its website, with a quick exit button which ensures no record of the attempt is left of having visited the website and any message will go to a secure inbox which only the expert Helpline team can access so sending a message won’t leave any trace on the victims emails.
Domestic abuse does not have to be physical abuse, the term “domestic abuse” includes emotional, psychological, physical, financial and sexual abuse. Since 2015 the definition of domestic abuse has been expanded, criminalising non-physical abuse which often occurs in the domestic setting. This criminal offence recognises psychological and emotional harm which can result from a pattern of behaviour and the need to consider and deal with controlling or coercive behaviour in domestic (family or close) relationships.
Victims may wrongly assume that the courts are currently closed due to the lockdown, however, this is not the case. Hearings are still taking place remotely, either via video link or telephone and judges and lawyers are adapting to a new way of working remotely. It is important that this message is projected to anyone who might be suffering at the hands of an abusive partner: remedies are available despite the unprecedented times in which we find ourselves.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or concerning family relationship and divorce matters more widely, please contact Victoria Maxwell on 020 7091 2707 or another member of our expert family team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The above is accurate as at 07 April 2020. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.