This is a difficult and challenging time for everyone however, it is particularly worrying for adults and children who are experiencing or are at risk of domestic abuse during the Covid 19 lockdown.
We are currently in nationwide lockdown, which has resulted in many victims or potential victims staying at home and/or isolating with an abusive partner, spouse or family member. There has already been a significant increase in domestic violence incidents as individuals and families are forced to spend extended periods of time together, when they would otherwise have sought respite outside of their homes. As family lawyers, we have also experienced an escalation in calls during the lockdown, from people who are concerned about their safety as a result of domestic abuse.
It is absolutely vital that those who are affected by domestic abuse are aware that support services still remain available during the current lockdown and that there are ways to access help and protection, if you are unable to leave your home at this time.
The government has launched a new public awareness raising campaign highlighting that if anyone is at risk of, or is experiencing domestic abuse, help remains available during this difficult time. The campaign has been launched using the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone.
What should I do if I am in immediate danger?
If you or someone you know is at risk of immediate danger, as a result of domestic violence, you must call 999 and ask to speak to the police.
If it is not safe for you to speak when you make the call to the police (e.g. because your abuser is in the home), there are ways you can communicate to the police without speaking – please read the Silent Solutions system put in place by the police to enable you to call 999 safely.
If you cannot speak when calling 999 you may need to make yourself heard by one of the following ways:
- Listening to the questions and coughing or tapping the handset if you can
- If you are calling from a mobile, press 55 to “Make Yourself Heard”
- If you are calling from a landline and do not speak, you will be connected to a police call handler who will remain connected for 45 seconds even if you have to replace the handset
How else can I legal get advice and assistance?
If you are worried about your situation and require advice on legal measures to protect you or your family, please contact our family lawyers at ITN Solicitors, 19-21 Great Tower Street, London, EC3R 5AQ on telephone number 020 3909 8100 or mobile 07891 484375.
How can I access domestic abuse services if I am living with my abuser and unable to leave my home due to Covid 19 lockdown?
The current Public Health Guidance requires everyone to stay at home except for very limited purposes as follows:
- Shopping for basic necessities such as food and medicine as infrequently as possible
- One form of exercise a day either alone or with members of your household
- Any medical need including to donate blood, avoid or escape injury or harm or to provide care or help to a vulnerable person
- Travelling to or from work if you cannot work from home
If you are unable to safely make calls to access domestic violence services from your home, you may have to make such calls when leaving your home for one of the limited purposes listed above.
You may also need to speak by telephone to family members, friends, neighbours or work colleagues to assist you in accessing domestic violence services safely from your home.
It is important to remember that if you or your family are at risk of harm as a result of domestic abuse, then you and your family are allowed to leave your home and go to a place of safety away from your abuser. This situation falls within one of the limited exceptions to the rules on staying at home i.e. you may leave if it is to escape harm or injury.
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse includes physical abuse but there are also a range of other behaviours which will amount to domestic abuse as set out below:
- coercive control, ‘gaslighting’, controlling behaviour
- economic or financial abuse
- online abuse
- verbal abuse
- emotional abuse
- psychological abuse
- sexual abuse
What protection is available from the family courts?
In order to protect you and your family, you may need to apply for one or both of the following orders from the family courts:
- Non molestation order - this is an order which is made to protect you and/or your child from violence, harm or harassment and to prevent the abuser from threatening, pestering or harassing you. The purpose of the order may be to protect you from physical harm and/or from emotional or psychological harm.
- An order may prevent the abuser from contacting you whether directly or indirectly including via social media.
- The application may be made on an urgent basis without initially notifying the other abuser.
- Occupation order – this is an order which is made to prevent the abuser from entering your home or part of your home or alternatively requiring them to leave the home so that you and the children can safely return to the property.
- The application would usually be made by notifying the other party first.
Please note that the ongoing situation relating to Covid 19 is changing rapidly and we are monitoring the information contained in this article, contents of which may have to be further updated if new rules are issued by the government in relation to Public Health Advice.
If you are experiencing or believe you are at risk of experiencing domestic abuse, please contact our Family Lawyers on 020 3909 8100 / 07891 484375. Alternatively, if you require advice or information on any other aspect pertaining to Family Law please contact Mitali Zakaria, Somia Siddiq, Alexandra Wilks, Priyanka Chakravarty or Sajidah Khan at ITN Solicitors.