When the ‘lockdown’ was announced on 23 March, campaigners against domestic abuse were quick to point out the negative impact this could have on vulnerable women. They were right. The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls in two weeks, and visits to their website are up 150% in comparison to last month. For many women, home is not a safe place.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, explains that many perpetrators already use isolation as a tool of control. The lockdown measures have restricted women’s ability to escape, instead meaning they are spending concentrated periods of time with perpetrators, potentially escalating the threat of domestic abuse.
I agree with the government that domestic abuse is unacceptable in any situation, no matter what stresses you are under. The lockdown is no excuse for abuse and we must provide comprehensive support to everyone facing domestic violence at this time.
Domestic abuse is more that physical violence. It can also include economic, online, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse, as well as coercive control. If you believe you are being abused, there is help and support available for you. You can find a list of emergency numbers, charities and services here. This website has advice for employers and survivors alike during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government’s response so far has acknowledged the increase in domestic abuse and the need to help the people (mainly women) experiencing it. However, a group of charities and service providers in this area wrote to the Prime Minister on 3 April to highlight the need for further action. They called for:
- Funding for the specialist support sector
- Crisis response planning which involves abuse experts
- Stronger public messaging about abuse
- Equal protection for migrant survivors
I have written to Victoria Atkins (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Safeguarding) and Liz Truss (Secretary of State for Women and Equalities) to add my voice to these demands, urging the government to increase funding for local organisations in particular. In my constituency, charities such as Pennine Domestic Abuse Partnership do incredibly important work supporting vulnerable women, and their local knowledge gives them a special expertise.
I am heartened by how people are looking out for each other at this time – and I urge you to be extra vigilant for signs of domestic abuse in your colleagues, friends, neighbours and family. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline website has advice for how to support survivors.
I will continue to push the government for an urgent response to the points raise by domestic abuse charities. These policies aren’t abstract; women’s lives depend on them and we must get them right.