Since lockdown measures were introduced to cope with the coronavirus, there has been a stark rise in domestic abuse, with the National Domestic Abuse helpline reporting a dramatic increase in calls. With Lockdown 3 now underway, Fran Hipperson, family partner at B P Collins, advises on what victims can do to protect themselves and their children.
Domestic abuse isn’t always physical violence. It can also encompass a pattern of controlling, threatening and coercive behaviour. This behaviour can be emotional, economic, psychological or sexual. Perpetrators of domestic abuse often use coercive and controlling behaviour to seek to isolate their victims from friends and family and to remove any support network they have. Lockdown has made it much easier for them to do this.
If you’re experiencing domestic abuse, there are various orders which can be made to help you, although applications are likely to be dealt with remotely through telephone or Skype hearings rather than at court. For example, it is possible for the court to make an order regulating the use of the family home, such as who can use the kitchen at a particular time.
The court also has the power to exclude the perpetrator of domestic abuse from the family home entirely (an occupation order) and to grant an injunction to prevent abusive behaviour (a non-molestation order). Breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence and as such will act as a deterrent for some.
Refuges also remain open, and the police will provide support to all those who are being abused – whether physically, emotionally, or otherwise.
If you’re experiencing abuse, you can also call the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free on 0808 2000 247 and anyone in danger should call 999. Press 55 when prompted if you cannot speak.
If your friend or family member is a victim of domestic abuse, you could provide information on organisations that offer help to victims and their children and explore available options with them. You can also help them to report an assault to the police if they choose to do so and you could go with them to see a solicitor if they are ready to take this step.