With lockdown measures in place in the UK as of 24th March it is feared that there could be a rise in domestic violence.
Mandatory lockdowns mean that victims of domestic violence are trapped inside with their abusers and cut off from the people and resources usually available to help them. It is a scary and unsafe time for them, confined to the one place where people should feel most secure and protected. According to reports in China, where the coronavirus pandemic started, domestic violence surged during the lockdown and quarantine periods.
It was recently reported in The Independent that the Government has been urged to introduce emergency measures to protect women trapped at home with abusive partners. It is of course not just women who are the victims of domestic violence, men can often find themselves in unsafe and vulnerable situations too and it is expected that any measures will clearly offer protection to both sexes.
Domestic Violence Protection Orders currently allow police to remove abusers from the family home for a period of 28 days. Campaigners are urging the government to extend those police powers to enable them to remove the abusers for the duration of lockdown. If introduced, in theory, such powers would ensure much needed safety and breathing space for victims.
In practice, I am seriously concerned about what lies ahead on two levels: firstly, about the police force’s ability to cope with the expected surge of domestic violence incidents and, secondly, about where the perpetrators will be re-housed and the possible increased danger to public health as a result. The latter will undoubtedly be an exercise of weighing up the risks and opting for the “least-worst” option. My first concern has been heightened by a report published in The Times today explaining that, sadly, many officers are now falling ill with the coronavirus and the reduction in their numbers will mean an essential scaling back of the services they can offer. In some areas, this could mean a worrying lack of response to victims calling for help with their domestic situation.
As a family law solicitor committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of my clients and their children, I will be advising my clients of the other options open to them if faced with an intolerable domestic situation. Those options will include, amongst others, emergency injunctive relief through the Family Courts. Family lawyers and the Family Courts are still operating, albeit remotely. We still have the ability to make emergency applications to obtain protective orders for our clients and, where necessary, their children.
This new situation will be incredibly difficult for so many people. Nobody should feel alone or think that they have to suffer in silence. There is help out there in many different forms.
If you need legal advice then I am at the end of the phone for a friendly and free, no obligation, chat. Tel: 01323 356008
If a phone call is difficult then please feel free to send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, the following organisations can offer you support:
National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247
Victim support is available to anyone affected by crime. Victim support offer confidential and free support every day of the week.
Citizens advice offers much support with links to a number of support organisations for men and women suffering domestic abuse.
Although Relate doesn’t provide direct support for abuse victims, it does offer a range of services including help with relationships, family life, parenting, help with children, and workshops.
For up to date guidance on child contact issues please see my article on Guidance on child arrangements during the coronavirus lockdown.
As a family law solicitor based in Eastbourne Sussex I have been specialising in family law since 2002 and I am here to support you with any family issues you may have. Please do not hesitate to contact me for a free initial chat on 01323 356008.