The unfortunate effect of Coronavirus on domestic abuse


Since the government directed a national lockdown two weeks ago it has been reported that there has been a 25% increase in calls and online requests for support from the National Domestic Abuse helpline. According to the helpline, there has been a hundred more calls last week in comparison to the  two weeks prior.

Over 25 organisations supporting domestic violence victims have reported a rise in their caseload since the beginning of the UK's coronavirus epidemic.  Charities believe that financial pressures combined with lockdown restrictions could escalate violence and abusive behaviour.

The increase may also have been triggered due to the pressure that some of the services and awareness campaigns are experiencing. Many support groups have had to reduce their service delivery to victims due the increased caseload owing to Covid-19 and them not being able to deal with it. Most domestic abuse organisations offer face-to-face or telephone support, however a quarter of them struggle to effectively support victims due to technical issues, inability to meet victims and staff sickness.

Domestic abuse is not just physical, it is also a form of controlling and threatening behaviour. This can also be emotional, economic, psychological, online, verbal or sexual. Domestic abuse will never be eradicated as such, however during current times where there are decreased escape routes, domestic abuse is certainly on the rise. There is also increased pressure on the government to announce emergency funding to support victims. Research shows that due to the great demand from victims for support that helping service to stay afloat and continue, their important lifesaving work will be crucial.

The Police have advised that both women and men who experience abuse at home in the course of lockdown should still report their experiences to police and seek support from services working around domestic abuse. Neighbours who may suspect domestic abuse in their community are also advised to report it to the police. Moreover, the police indicated that once they receive contact from a domestic abuse victim that they would seek to remove the perpetrator. This is significant for victims to be aware of as at current stage they are walking on eggshells, afraid of having no help if tensions rise.

The National Domestic Abuse helpline still operates 24 hours, seven days a week as staff work from home. The issue around lockdown is that not only are victims are more vulnerable to domestic abuse, they are also less able to make an emergency phone call. Consequently, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline has now got an online service on their website with a swift exit button which shows no record of the attempt on the domestic phone.

The government website also provides guidance on the support available not just for victims of domestic abuse but also help for perpetrators to change their behaviour. At present, the government is endeavouring to support and fund various charities and continues to liaise with the charity sector and police to allow support services to stay open during this difficult time.  Home Secretary, Priti Patel, also announced last week that victims of domestic violence are allowed to leave their homes to seek refuge during the current lockdown.

If you are in immediate danger, we suggest that you call 999. If you are unable to talk on the phone, by pressing 55 after calling 999, you will be transferred to the applicable police force who will provide assistance without the victim having to speak. Women's Aid also provides live chat service on their website. Male victims can access the Men's Advice Line on 08088 010 327 which is a confidential helpline.

Our Family Law Solicitors understand the importance of acting quickly and providing support in such situations. They have extensive experience and understanding in domestic violence work and its associated sensitivities. We are able to advise and assist victims in obtaining an injunction and/or an order protecting themselves from further abuse and where possible, an order that the perpetrator leave the home.

For all enquiries, in the strictest of confidence, please call 0208 949 9500. Although our office building is closed, arrangements have been put in place for remote working which include virtual appointments with clients and the court.