When Home is not a Safe Place: Domestic Abuse, Coronavirus and Support for Victims

In the UK, lockdown restrictions have drastically changed daily life for everyone. During this challenging time, the most important message we are receiving is to Stay Home, Be Safe and Save Lives.

But what if home is not a safe place?

Families are spending an increased amount of time at home, whilst managing additional caring responsibilities, increased financial demands and heightened worries in general. These added pressures and increased tensions within the home could lead to changes in mood and behaviours.

This can accelerate the risk of abuse.

For those already living in an abusive household, isolation can make pre-existing abusive behaviours worse and it narrows the window of opportunity for those seeking help and support.

Key Messages to reinforce during this time:

  • The Police will respond if you call them. Even with the restrictions, they can still come to your home, they can still support you to leave or they can remove the abuser if necessary.
  • If you feel you are in immediate danger dial 999.  Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution System. If you are using a mobile, let the operator know you are there by making some sound, even if just heavy breathing or tapping the phone. You will then be prompted to dial 55 which will put you straight through as an emergency to the Police.
  • If you are deaf or can’t verbally communicate you can register with the Emergency SMS service. Text REGISTER to 999. You will get a text which tells you what to do next. Do this when it is safe so you can text when you are in danger.
  • The National Domestic Abuse Helpline continues to operate. You can call them by telephone and TypeTalk on 0808 2000 247. It is free and open 24 hours.  You can also contact them online at National Domestic Abuse Helpline. 
  • Download Hestia’s Bright Sky App. An app that provides support and information about domestic abuse including contact details of local services. You can download the app if you are at risk of domestic abuse or if you are supporting someone at risk.
  • Find out about your housing rights. Contact Shelter for free, confidential housing advice.
  • Contact Turn2Us if you are concerned about your financial situation and would like to know more about benefits you could be entitled to.
  • Get in touch with your Local Authority for support and advice. They will still be working throughout the pandemic and continuing to offer a duty service.
  • Access healthcare if you need to.
  • Have a safety or emergency plan. Have a bag packed, know where your house and car keys are.  Keep your mobile phone charged and within reach at all times.  Ensure any money, cards and identification are in a safe place.

Who can I contact if I need support?

What can I do if I am worried about someone at risk of domestic abuse?

  • Check the person is safe if you can and are able to (in a safe way). If you feel they are in immediate danger dial 999.
  • Encourage them to contact one of the services above, such as the Domestic Abuse Helpline, Women’s Aid, Safe Lives or the Men’s Advice Line.
  • Advise them to phone 999 in an emergency and use the 55 code if necessary.
  • Reassure them that there is support available. They will be listened to if they are concerned about their safety and wellbeing.
  • Inform them they can use private browsing to hide their internet search history.
  • Share our directory of useful contacts.
  • Do not approach or speak to the abuser about their behaviour. This could escalate the abuse and put you and the victim at risk of harm.

To get further advice about what to do in a particular situation, call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline. They can provide expert, confidential advice on how best to support the person you are worried about.

How can you access help if you think you may be an abuser or are worried about your own behaviour?

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be an abuser, there is support available.

  • Respect is an anonymous and confidential helpline for men and women who are harming their partners and families.
  • Use their webchat service. The service is available Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10am to 11am and from 3pm to 4pm.
  • Telephone 0808 802 4040.