Lockdown rules stipulating that everyone must stay home during the coronavirus pandemic have left many in vulnerable situations.
Victims of domestic abuse and violence may now find themselves in a dangerous or frightening situation, with The National Domestic Abuse helpline reporting a 25 per cent increase in calls and online requests since the lockdown was announced.
If you find yourself in such a situation, you are not alone, and there are many ways you can get help if you don't feel safe at home.
If you're in immediate danger
If you feel your life is in immediate danger, you should contact 999 for the emergency services.
The emergency line has a feature called the Silent Solutions System, in case you're afraid of being overheard making an emergency call. When the operator asks you which emergency service you require, dial 55 and the call will be transferred to your local police force as an emergency.
Get advice over the phone or online
It is crucial to remember that, during this time, the usual support services for domestic abuse and violence have not been suspended, and you should seek help if you need it.
All helplines are totally non-judgmental and often offer support in several languages.
The freephone, 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline (run by charity Refuge) can be reached on 0808 2000 247, and will guide and support potential victims of domestic abuse.
If you're worried someone you know may be suffering domestic violence, you can also contact Refuge for support and guidance.
The website additionally has a form through which women can book a safe time for the team to call them back.
For a more complete list of resources and information, the government has a page on domestic violence here.
If you think you may have to leave home in an emergency situation, Women's Aid recommends having an emergency bag ready for yourself and your children, if possible. This bag should contain cash, essential medication and clothing, among other essentials.
Due to self-isolation rules, staying with family and friends might not be an option. Refuges are still open, but may be experiencing unusually high demand during this period.
Women's Aid says the local authority has a responsibility to give you information about your housing rights, and charity Shelter will provide free and confidential support on all housing and homelessness issues.
A Domestic Violence Protection Order is an order that removes an abuser's rights to live in a family home - so this could be an option for you. You can find out more and get advice on this here.
Women's Aid has useful further advice for what to do in various abuse situations here.
Covering your tracks online
Your partner may check on your internet history as a way to control you. Almost every website connected with domestic violence and abuse will have a prominent 'quick exit' button, which takes you off the page immediately.
However, you will still need to delete your internet history in order for the website not to show up in your history. Women's Aid has a comprehensive explanation of others steps you can take to cover your online tracks at this link.
What counts as domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse is not always physical - it can express itself in a number of other ways, including:
- coercive control and ‘gaslighting’
- economic abuse
- online abuse
- verbal abuse
- emotional abuse
- sexual abuse
This list is not exhaustive, and you should always seek help if you feel unsafe or frightened in your own home.