We have a world-wide battle on our hands to help stop the spread of the awful Corona Virus.  We have discussed the deaths that will happen from the virus itself.  We have spoken about the collateral damage of other seriously ill people losing their lives as the numbers of emergencies weighs so heavily on our NHS.  We have recognised the effect on the elderly and how lonely they will feel in isolation.  How pregnant women are having to isolate, affecting their mental health during what would normally be a sociable part of their life.  We have spoken about people with suppressed immune systems and those receiving chemotherapy due to cancer.  How they will have to be so careful not to get contaminated.

I haven’t heard many people discuss how those who are in abusive or toxic family situations will cope in these circumstances.  Being told to not leave their home and that they must not see anyone else apart from who they live with.  These people will be trapped behind a silent wall with someone who is harming them, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  They may be victims of coercive control tactics, physical abuse, mental torture or to be made to have such low self-esteem that they may self harm or even have suicidal thoughts.

Perpetrators of domestic violence – whether male or female, able bodied or disabled, have an enormous daily battle already to get through another day.  Many victims are socially isolated already by their aggressors. This is very often part of the cycle of control, to keep a victim without any family and friend support, ensuring the aggressor has optimum control over their victim.

Abusive partners can destroy finances, careers and the mental health of their victims.  The Government enforcing lock-down (for our own health) is further control that a victim has to deal with and backs them into a corner that they won’t handle well.  Add into this mix the affects of partners potentially losing their income in the crisis as well and you can see that it is a time bomb waiting to explode!  So, a vulnerable person may be trapped with their abuser, possibly with limited access to food or medication, there is no surprise to me that there has been a rise in reported cases of domestic violence incidents since the lock-down on 20th March in the UK.  Many police forces have observed the issue, promoting domestic violence support services will continue even in the lock-down situation.

People experiencing domestic violence are facing an impossible choice that puts them at a high risk either way.  They may choose to stay with their abuser and get hurt or leave and potentially then be in contact with someone with the Corona virus, a life threatening virus.

See here for further details of what the Manchester Deputy Mayor had to say about the situation getting worse, especially as economic strains increase within families.  Refuge workers are under immense pressure with an increase in referrals since the March lock-down in the UK as well as having to navigate a shortage of staff due to self-isolation or having long term health conditions themselves.  There was a further article that tells about how police are now categorising domestic abuse cases in the lock-down due to the increase in numbers.

This article from yesterday, in the Guardian entitled “Lock-downs around the World bring Rise in Domestic Violence” Here.  Activists are saying that there is a pattern of increasing abuse in countries from Brazil to Germany and China to Greece, it’s happening in the UK too.  There have been reports of a 90% increase in domestic violence reported to police in China alone, cases reported going from 47 last year to 162 in the month of February quarantine this year.  Brazil is reporting similar statistics and in Italy the calls to the usual helplines have decreased, but there is a major rise in very desperate text messages and emails from victims reporting more severe situations.

In the UK, Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality party, has called for special police powers to evict perpetrators from homes for the duration of the lock-down, and for authorities to waive court fees for the domestic violence protection orders.

In Spain on 19th March, the country saw the first domestic violence fatality since the lock-down began five days earlier, when a woman was murdered by her husband in front of their children in the coastal province of Valencia.

There are many amazing charity organisations who help and advise in the circumstances of domestic violence, whoever is affected – women, men, children, older people… If you feel that someone is in danger – please make a call to your local police and ask for their dedicated Domestic Violence line to discuss the details and get them some help, you may save their life.


Wendy Ward

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