Leaving Lockdown – Domestic Abuse – The new epidemic?

In England and Wales domestic abuse makes up nearly a quarter of all reported violent crime and we have all heard about the spike in domestic abuse and violence during the recent Covid 19 lockdown.

One in four women and one in six men may be experiencing domestic abuse at this time.

Home Secretary Priti Patel announcing on 11th April a 25% rise in phone calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline in the first week of lockdown rising to 49% after 3 weeks

With some truly shocking statistics reported abuse is really only the tip of the iceberg.

With victims of abuse not feeling confident to report or seek support, and services under unprecedented pressure to adapt and meet demands is there a real need for awareness for how domestic abuse victims can reach out and overcome the barriers to seeking help and prevent domestic abuse devastating so many lives. Safelives reported that 22% of services said they were no longer able to cope with demand.

During the lockdown new forms of abuse have emerged and this is not surprising as we all experienced our sense of freedom being removed, we have been subjected to living in confined spaces without breaks from our partners or children, working from home and home schooling have brought their own challenges and have put strains on relationships. New types of abuse have also been highlighted, for example parents have seen abuse by their children which can be very challenging – you cannot really walk away from your own child.

Moving out of lockdown, we know that financial concerns, loss of jobs, uncertainty about the future and heightened emotions will further drive the domestic abuse agenda.

Abuse can take many forms and may include a pattern of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviours used to establish control over another person. This may be emotional, sexual, physical, financial or psychological and it can happen to anyone regardless of their age, gender, religion, social background, race, ethnicity or disability.

Conversely what makes a healthy relationship?

A healthy relationship shows up in the practical sense as one that includes:

  • Open and honest communication
  • It is OK to disagree and have different opinions
  • It is OK to argue but not OK to feel afraid during the argument
  • Allows for individuality and individuality is celebrated in the relationship
  • Emphasis is placed on bringing out a partners best qualities
  • Achievements are celebrated
  • Financial independence
  • Shared decision making
  • Welcome affection and closeness

If you are not recognising the signs of a healthy relationship you may be experiencing an unhealthy relationship and it may be time to gain some support.

Often a question you may be asked is well why don’t you just leave? There are many reasons why domestic abuse victims cannot just leave even though it sounds like something that would be easy to do. Often children, finances, low self-esteem, illness, embarrassment, religious reasons, denial or substance misuse can all be common reasons for not being able to leave the home. Isolation through language barriers and the abusers control is also a huge barrier for victims. Leaving is the most dangerous time for the victim, some simply cannot face the fear especially if they have to remain for a safe planning period.

How can I help myself?

If you think you are experiencing domestic abuse and you are concerned take the ‘Am I at risk’ questionnaire found on the Bright Sky App. This App is a free to download mobile app providing support and information for anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those who are concerned about someone they know. It takes about three minutes and will help you to identify if you might consider reaching out.

Keep a journal with photos if you can, this will help to establish patterns of behaviour. It is important to find a safe place to store this. The App can provide this.

Find and seek support, there are still services open and able to offer online help even if face to face support is not available at this time.

Use the safe space initiative– Boots Chemist, Superdrug and Morrison’s supermarket as well as other pharmacies can provide a safe space for you to share your concerns and their frontline workers are trained and aware of the safe space scheme. https://uksaysnomore.org/safespaces/

If you can, read the online safety guide on the Bright Sky App to ensure you protect yourself and do not cause further risk to your situation.

How can I help a friend or colleague?

If you are concerned about a colleague or friend and they do reach out to you, ensure you actively listen to them without judgement and believe what they are telling you. It’s important to quickly establish a safe way to maintain contact and code of how to indicate it’s not safe to speak. This prevents ‘helpers’ being left in stressful situations.

Where victims have informed friends, doctors etc. they reported that they thought it would result in something to make it stop whilst enabling the victim to deny ‘telling on’ the abuser. Those that did nothing struggled with over whelming guilt.

If there are children at risk or the relationship is professional then the colleague may have no alternative but to involve other services. Not promising confidentiality and gaining the victims trust to confide is as difficult dilemma for anyone however you can support, listen and help them to gain the support services that will be able to help them and signpost them for further help.

The Brightsky App gives support and advice for yourself or for helping others and includes a variety of resources and guides and is supported by Hestia Charity and the Vodaphone foundation.

Our thanks to Angie Norden for this article.

Angie Norden is a trained relationship counsellor and coach who works online with domestic abuse victims, helping and empowering them to seek help and rebuild their self-esteem and confidence.

With a background in the corporate setting she works alongside progressive organisations to embed wellbeing policies and ensure a mental health focus aligning to strategic people initiatives.

She has delivered corporate training in mental health, wellbeing, leadership and management, resilience, change management, diversity and inclusion and safeguarding.

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/angie-n-61ba8a1/

Your Employer Wellbeing works with businesses to support the ongoing wellbeing of their employees.

We do this through helping them secure long-term dependable childcare or finding care homes for the elderly, all supported with a programme of wellbeing talks and presentations to provide emotional strategies designed to help with the challenges of juggling a family and a career.


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