Hannah Bridgwood, associate solicitor at Clarke Willmott LLP, outlined what exactly lockdown emergency measures mean for vulnerable women:
Are there provisions in the Coronavirus bill for victims of domestic abuse who will be isolated with their abuser?
The measures provide for people leaving their home in exceptional circumstances and one of these is to ‘avoid or escape risk of injury or harm’.
So, if you are in fear for your safety and that of your children, you are able to leave your household to get help and seek refuge.
The police have been placed on high alert because other countries have experienced a significant increase in domestic abuse since lockdown was introduced. The police are ready and willing to help.
If you are in immediate danger, you should never hesitate to call 999 straight away. If you are unable to speak because you are scared your abuser will hear, you can dial 55 during your call; this will alert the police that the call is genuine, extremely urgent and will be prioritised.
Solicitors can help; the courts remain open and are able to deal with emergency applications quickly. We can apply for non-molestation orders which are injunctions designed to protect you and your children from further harm.
We can also apply for occupation orders to get your abuser out of the family home. It is worth noting that if your abuser pays the bills and rent/mortgage, the court can also order that they can carry on paying. We offer telephone and video calls so that we can act quickly to get you the protection you need.
Women’s Aid is providing advice specifically designed for the current Covid-19 outbreak, including a live chat service they will help you flee, locate a safe place to stay and provide you with support to help you come to terms with your experiences.
MEN’S ADVICE LINE
The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse. They will help you to plan your escape, locate safe accommodation and support you throughout.
They can be contacted on 0808 801 0327.
GALOP – for members of the LGBT+ community
Galop is a LGBT+ anti-violence charity. Galop runs a specialist helpline on 0800 999 5428 or you can contact them by email [email protected] . They will support you to safety.
Hestia is another domestic abuse charity that provides a free-to-download mobile app, Bright Sky, which provides guidance, support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those worried about someone they know you can download at the app store or android store.
Chayn provides online help and resources in a multiple languages, to help sufferers and friends supporting those being abused.
NATIONAL DOMESTIC ABUSE HELPLINE
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline can provide guidance and support for victims, as well as those who are worried about friends and loved ones.
They can be called, for free and in confidence, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247.
They will also call you back at a safe time if you book a call through their website.
SURVIVING ECONOMIC ABUSE
If you are worried that your abuser will leave you financially vulnerable, the charity Surviving Economic Abuse can provide additional guidance and support.
The government has recognised that sufferers of domestic abuse may be feeling particularly vulnerable at this time. Earlier this year Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged to crack down on those using the lockdown to make their victims feel ‘especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed’.
She told The Mail on Sunday she was aware that for some ‘home is not the safe haven it should be’, adding: ‘I am acutely aware that the necessary guidelines about social distancing and self-isolation may leave the victims of hidden crime, such as domestic abuse and child sexual abuse, feeling especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed.
‘But 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 as simple: you will not get away with your crimes.
‘I also want to make clear – whilst our advice is to stay at home, anyone who is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, is still able to leave and seek refuge.
‘In times of crisis such as these, whilst we are socially distancing ourselves, we must not forget the most vulnerable in society.
‘Last year on average three people a week were killed as a result of domestic abuse and this year’s statistics are expected to increase as a result of the current Covid-19 lockdown. I would encourage anyone currently in fear of domestic abuse to reach out; to the police, to me or to specialist charities.’