How Lockdowns Provoke Cases of Domestic Abuse and Mental Health
As part of a nationwide effort to reduce COVID-19’s rate of infection, the instruction to stay at home has been broadcast by the British government. This message has significant benefits for a population as they try to overcome a pandemic’s spread. However, there are unfortunate consequences of isolation, especially for women. Homes are, for some, an environment of abuse and, as lockdowns are sustained, the danger can worsen.
The figures describing the number of domestic abuse cases within the UK have been rising for some time. This is partly because the methods used to identify and record offences have improved. However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the figures have risen distinctly, both in the number of individual cases and the severity of abuse.
A saving grace for those suffering has been the development of Silent Solutions. These methods are adopted by institutions as a way to allow women to seek help without having to make an open statement about their situation.
One now well-known example is this phonecall to an emergency service operator that saw a woman disguise her call for help as a takeaway pizza order. Pubs and bars are often a scene for discomfort and many have taken to display signs inside women’s restrooms detailing specific requests, either for staff or drinks, that can be made to safely describe threats.
These methods of support have saved lives. And, with the ubiquity of video calls, streaming, and TikTok videos, these Silent Solutions have taken forms online too. #SignalForHelp is a relatively new online campaign that is spreading the awareness of a hand gesture that can be used discreetly, informing those watching that the person is in danger.
New methods are being continuously developed, with public locations like pharmacies and supermarkets also offering support as places that women can visit without raising suspicion. Such ongoing development is necessary because, as signs become more well-known, abusers will begin to recognise them, creating a difficult situation. Signals need to be both understood and misunderstood by the relevant parties. Women in London are encouraged to Ask For Angela if they are suffering or scared. However, if they cannot escape their abusive company, a now well-known code may not be enough.
The pandemic is making the situation even more difficult as women now have fewer options. Lockdown is forcing residents to isolate, keeping many in close contact with their abuser. Two years ago, WHO estimated that 1 in 3 women were the victims of domestic abuse, describing it as the most widespread, but among the least reported human rights abuses. Now, as periods of isolation continue to challenge mental health, the situation is becoming more complicated.
As the UK entered its third national lockdown, Mind mental health charity reported an influx of views on its websites, the highest it experienced since the country’s first lockdown. Residents around the UK are seeking help for an increasing number of mental health issues. And, as unemployment levels rise and the financial downturn becomes widespread, such struggles are going to worsen.
Recognise domestic abuse
Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background.
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse is not always physical violence. It can also include:
- coercive control and ‘gaslighting’
- economic abuse
- online abuse
- threats and intimidation
- emotional abuse
- sexual abuse
What signs to look for
If you believe that you or someone else could be a victim of domestic abuse, there are signs that you can look out for including:
- being withdrawn, or being isolated from family and friends
- having bruises, burns or bite marks
- having finances controlled, or not being given enough to buy food or pay bills
- not being allowed to leave the house, or stopped from going to college or work
- having your internet or social media use monitored, or someone else reading your texts, emails or letters
- being repeatedly belittled, put down or told you are worthless
- being pressured into sex
- being told that abuse is your fault, or that you’re overreacting
Here is a list of helplines and organisations you can contact if you are experiencing domestic violence:
Organisations for women
National Domestic Abuse helpline
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is a freephone 24-hour helpline which provides advice and support to women and can refer them to emergency accommodation.
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is run by Refuge.
There are translation facilities if your first language is not English. The Helpline also offers BT Type talk for callers with hearing difficulties. The Helpline worker contacts the Type talk operator so that the caller can communicate through them.
Their helpline offers advice and support to women experiencing domestic violence.
Refuge also provide safe, emergency accommodation through a network of refugees throughout the UK, including culturally-specific services for women from minority ethnic communities and cultures.
Their website also includes some information for men who are either being abused or who are abusers.
The Women’s Aid website provides a wide range of resources to help women and young people.
This includes The Survivor’s Handbook which provides a range of information including legal and housing advice, tips on how to create a safety plan and advice for people with specialist housing needs. It’s available in 11 languages and in audio.
They also run a website to support children and teenagers who may be living in a home affected by domestic violence, or who may be in a violent relationship themselves.
Rights of Women
Rights of Women offers confidential legal advice on domestic and sexual violence. You can find out more about what they do and when they’re open on their website.
Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors (FLOWS)
FLOWS gives legal advice to women who are affected by domestic abuse – they also give advice to front line workers.
Southall Black Sisters
Southall Black Sisters provide advice for Black (Asian and African-Caribbean) women with issues including domestic abuse, forced marriage, immigration and homelessness.
Organisations for men
Respect – Men’s Advice Line
The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for all men experiencing domestic violence by a current or ex-partner. They provide emotional support and practical advice, and can give you details of specialist services that can give you advice on legal, housing, child contact, mental health and other issues.
The ManKind Initiative is a charity offering information and support to men who are victims of domestic abuse or violence. This can include information and support on reporting incidents, police procedures, housing, benefits and injunctions. They can refer you to a refuge, local authority or other support services if you need it.
This is a helpline for men who have been victims of rape or sexual abuse.
They may be able to arrange counselling or a support group if you live in the London area or provide details of an appropriate service if you don’t.