Domestic abuse cases in the UK are reported to have risen significantly since the start of lockdown in March 2020. Many people were forced to isolate with those who cause them harm – not only physical harm, but psychological and emotional harm through coercive and controlling behaviour such as intimidation, threats, limiting someone’s independence or restricting their ability to speak to others. Figures showed that more than 40,000 calls and contacts were made to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline during the first three months of lockdown. The charity Refuge has said that calls and contacts in June were nearly 80% higher than usual, and that when restrictions initially eased, there was a surge in women seeking refuge places.
This rise includes a particular increase in the numbers of men suffering from domestic abuse who sought help. Men are abused far more than people might realise, but they are often less likely to report the abuse they have suffered. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as embarrassment, or a fear that they will be perceived as weak. According to information published by the Respect Men’s Advice Line, some male domestic abuse victims have begun sleeping in cars, tents or gardens to escape their abusers during lockdown. The charity reported receiving 13,812 calls and emails between April and July 2020, compared to 8,648 in the same period last year.
What you can do if you are being abused or know someone who is
Speak to a friend or family member – if you are feeling threatened and fear for your safety, call or text someone you know and can trust. If you think that someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, ask them if you can help.
Contact an organisation that can help you – there are many organisations and services, which are open for business as usual, who you can speak to in order to get professional advice; they support both men and women and many have links on their websites which can be untraceable. They also provide specific coronavirus guidance. Some of the key ones are:
- Refuge – 0808 2000 247 (open 24 hours) and a live chat platform. See more information at https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk
- The National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0800 970 2070
- Women’s Aid – 0808 200 0247 and a live chat platform. See more information at https://www.womensaid.org.uk
- Respect Men’s Advice Line – 0808 8010327 and a live chat platform. See more information at https://mensadviceline.org.uk/male-victims/
Call 999 – if you or someone you know is at immediate and serious risk of domestic abuse, call the police immediately.
Speak to a legal professional – Legal professionals across the family law spectrum are very much still working, and the courts are still functioning. We can talk you through your circumstances and discuss how best to move forward and keep you safe. We understand that it is not always possible to speak on the telephone safely if you are experiencing domestic abuse, so you can also contact us via email, text and WhatsApp. We can advise you on the most recent guidance from the family courts about court hearings that can still take place (whether at court or remotely) and how this may affect your case. If you need guidance or advice, please get in touch.
Do get in touch with your questions – you can contact us here.
For further articles on the impact coronavirus on family law issues, please click here.