Whilst avoiding public spaces and working remotely will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, for many victims of abuse staying home may not be the safest option. We know that there are many external factors that will add stress and the financial strain which can negatively impact on the situation and create circumstances where safety is compromised.
When victims are forced to stay in the home or in close proximity to their abuser more frequently, the perpetrator can use any tool to exert power and control over the victim. We need to remember that abusers aren’t always intimate partners, they could be adult children, siblings or step-family too.
Here’s how COVID-19 may impact domestic abuse victims:
- Abusers may withhold necessary items, such as medication, hand sanitizer or other hygiene products.
- Abusers may overshare or exaggerate information about the pandemic to control or frighten the victim, or to prevent them from seeking appropriate medical attention.
- Services for victims may be significantly impacted meaning places of safety may be full or may even stop accepting referrals altogether. Victims may be fearful of accessing refuge for fear of being in close proximity to others.
- Health conditions may put victims at increased risk in public places where they would usually access support and regular appointments at a place of safety may be cancelled due to the government restrictions.
- Travel restrictions may impact a survivor’s escape or safety plan – it may not be available or safe for them to use public transport or they may not have enough money or fuel.
If any of the above are happening to you or someone you love, here are a few suggestions to make the situation safer:
- Create a safety plan.
A safety plan is a personalised, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after leaving.
The victim and perpetrator may be instructed by either or both employers to work remotely to limit social interaction. Having a prepared safety plan can help victims keep safe during this stressful time. See a copy of The ManKind Initiative Safety Plan on our website (PDF and Word). There may be limited support and safe places available due to COVID-19, so think about the alternatives such as staying with family or friends if it is safe to do so.
- Practice self-care.
COVID-19 is causing uncertainty for everyone, but getting through this time while experiencing abuse can feel really overwhelming. Taking care of your mental health and wellbeing can make a big difference in how you feel. Meeting basic needs are critical for self-care. Get adequate sleep, eat regular meals, do some physical activity. During this time of crisis, it may be helpful to focus on one item at a time. Some may choose to make a list to remind them to meet at least one basic need or do one self-care activity daily. Think about and do what feels right for you and your situation.
If you are already meeting basic needs, do other activities that you might enjoy. This may include keeping a personal journal of thoughts, but only if you’re in a safe place or your abusive partner won’t have access to it. (or use the Bright Sky app to log abusive incidents). There are many other options as well such as reading a book, taking a walk (but only once per day), enjoying a hobby (such as woodwork, painting, cooking, baking etc.), watching a favourite movie, talking to a friend, playing a video game, exercising, listening to your favourite music, playing with a pet. All of these things count as self-care – you need to do what works for you.
- Reaching out.
While people are encouraged to stay at home, you may feel isolated from your friends and family. Even if you are isolated, try to maintain social connections online or over the phone, if it is safe to do so, and try to stick to your daily routines as much as possible. If you are supporting someone experiencing abuse, you may not be able to visit them in person but you can encourage them to think about their wellbeing, and how to stay safe while they are confined to their home.
- Child Contact & Family Court
The Government have stated that “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents.”
CAFCASS have provided some good guidance on this and also on what to do if you are currently going through Family Court, it can be found using the link below; https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/covid-19/advice-for-parents-and-carers-on-covid-19/
If you are going the Family Courts this great guidance has been produced https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/coronavirus-crisis-guidance-on-compliance-with-family-court-child-arrangement-orders/
Stay safe. In an emergency you must still call 999.
You can call the ManKind Helpline Mon – Fri 10am – 4pm on 01823 334244
or visit www.mankind.org.uk