During the Covid-19 epidemic, we are all grappling with adapting to life in lockdown. However, for victims of domestic abuse, conditions in lockdown represent a perfect storm, leaving them isolated in a household with their abuser, with little opportunity for respite, in a time of increased tension and uncertainty. Initial fears that the lockdown would leave victims more vulnerable and unsafe than ever have been proving true, with leading domestic abuse charities reporting a significant surge in the number of victims making contact.
In these challenging times, it can be difficult to know where to access help or find safety. The Government has published guidance to support people who are experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse at this time, which also includes information about the support that people can access to manage their own behaviour during this time.
Below we have collated guidance from the Government, the courts and leading domestic abuse charities.
If you are in immediate danger, you should call 999. If you are unable to openly talk on the phone, press '55' and the operator will transfer the call to the relevant police force as an emergency. Refuge has also provided guidance on the 'silent solution'.
Who can I talk to?
If you need to speak to somebody confidentially about your concerns for yourself or for your loved ones, you can call the Freephone 24-hour Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or contact www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to arrange a call-back at a safer time.
Other specialist helplines include:
● Men’s Advice Line for male victims and those supporting them - 0808 801 0327.
● Galop Helpline for members of the LGBTQ+ community - 0800 999 5428 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
● Respect Phoneline for those worried about hurting their loved ones - 0808 8024040.
Where can I go?
While it may seem more difficult than ever to leave an abusive household, your safety must be paramount. If staying with friends or family is not possible, there are other options.
Many refuges across the country are remaining open but may have limited capacity. Contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for guidance about what services are available in your local area and the possibility of staying at a refuge.
Local authorities are continuing to provide emergency housing for those in need. Contact Shelter on their helpline 0808 800 4444 to discuss making an application for emergency housing in your local area.
What are my legal options?
If a crime has been committed and you feel it is safe to do so, you should report the incident(s) to the police, who will initiate an investigation.
It may be possible for you to apply to the family court for an injunction to protect you from domestic abuse. There are two types of injunction: non-molestation orders and occupation orders. You can apply for either or both of these injunctions in the family court.
A non-molestation order is a court order which requires the person who is the subject of the order to refrain from using or threatening violence, intimidating, harassing, or pestering you. A breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence.
An occupation order is a court order that controls who can live in the family home. The order can be used to exclude the perpetrator of domestic abuse from the family home or it may prevent them coming within a certain areas of the family home.
Guidance on applications for non-molestation and occupation orders can be found on the Government website.
If you need an injunction urgently, you may seek a temporary emergency injunction without the abuser’s knowledge at the court’s discretion. Family courts are continuing to deal with applications for domestic abuse injunctions as a priority, despite the current restrictions.
How can we help?
We understand the unique pressures and fears faced by victims of domestic abuse during this period of self-isolation. We can advise you on your options to best protect yourself or your loved ones, including applying for injunctions in the family court. If you would like to speak to a member of our family team, please call 020 3826 7550 or complete our web enquiry form.