Kate is a Playwright, and Project Consultant Assistant with Fulfilling Lives. In this piece she writes about her experience of domestic abuse and what services have been being doing to combat it during the current pandemic
No one knows what goes on in people’s lives behind closed doors, but what is known is that there has been a sharp increase of domestic violence during the Coronavirus outbreak, with us all having to live our lives in lock-down. For some, trying to live in an abusive relationship can be traumatising, fearful and shameful. What I mean by shameful is that it can be something that people do not want to talk about in case they are not believed, or they are frowned upon. They might have been made to believe it is their fault, and even be frightened to think that what they might share could get back to the person who is abusing them.
I say this as someone who has lived most of my life in violent, controlling, coercive relationships and it’s not just as easy as getting up and leaving or talking to someone about it. The amount of times I wanted to talk to someone, especially after I had taken a beating. That hand around my throat, strangling me. That knife held to my throat, in front of my children. That trainer that is just about to stamp on my head. Oh and how can I forget the line “I didn’t mean it, it won’t happen again, I promise, I love you”. Unfortunately, time and time again, I believed that line and believed it was love. What I should have believed in more is the saying, that actions speak louder than words. This is exactly what has been happening in many communities during Covid-19.
Government and Services Response to DV
The government and services have been acting. There have been some fantastic campaigns raising awareness of domestic abuse, here are some examples:
- Numerous organisations have created information posters and leaflets with key guidance for ‘non-specialist services”.
- Pharmacy schemes with the launch of the “safe space” initiative where Boots, Superdrug, and Morrisons have allowed their consulting rooms to be a safe space for women experiencing domestic abuse. Go to the healthcare counter and ask to use their consultancy room. The pharmacist will you show you to the safe space and once inside you will have access to all specialist domestic abuse information and be able to make the call safely. https://uksaysnomore.org/safespaces/.
- There is printed information of the national domestic abuse line on pharmacy bags and at the bottom of Tesco’s shopping receipts.
- UK says no more has the #listeningFromHome campaign. Encouraging members, friends, colleagues, and neighbours to be aware of and to report signs of domestic abuse whilst in lockdown. If you are concerned you can help by following these guidelines:Check in with victim but be mindful communication channels maybe monitored or call the police.
- If you are feeling unsafe the best thing to do might be to call 999 and get support from the police. You can do this silently if you are worried about your partner knowing. When dialling 999 from a mobile listen to the prompts from the operator, then cough or tap. The operator will then prompt you to press 55 this will transfer your call to the police, pressing this only works from a mobile and does not allow police to track your location.
- The Bright Sky App gives help and advice on domestic abuse and was created by Hestia. https://www.hestia.org/brightsky.
- “At home shouldn’t mean at risk” logo has been added on the specialist domestic abuse services and if you are experiencing domestic abuse you don’t need to stay at home. Police response and support services remain open for help and support visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-abuse-how-to-get-help #YouAreNotAlone campaign.
- Rail to refuge scheme offers free train travel to women fleeing domestic abuse. https://www.womensaid.org.uk/new-rail-to-refuge-scheme-offers-free-train-travel-to-women-fleeing-domestic-abuse/.
- The sanctuary scheme provides an alternative to relocation away from family and friends with vital support networks and key services through installation of enhanced security measures in your home. It’s voluntary, free and available to both homeowners and tenants who meet certain requirements. The scheme is funded by members of the Hastings and Rother Domestic Violence forum which has reps from CGL, Sussex Police, HomeWorks, and Optivo. If you would like to request sanctuary in your home call the CGL Domestic Abuse Portal service on 01424 716629 or housing options team on 01424 451100.
- East Sussex refuges are still accepting referrals. You can self-refer or enter through Hastings, Eastbourne, Lewes and Wealden and Rother councils or alternatively through East Sussex Police or the Portal. Also, through health services and social care website http://www.refuge.org.uk
- To raise awareness with this insidious life and death issue refuge has partnered with picturehouse to run a powerful 60sec short film called hide and seek. You can find this on the refuge website. https://www.refuge.org.uk/our-work/campaigns/hide-and-seek/
- Fulfilling Lives also played an essential role in trying to influence the content in the Domestic Abuse Bill for women with Multiple and Complex needs.
I really hope that this great work and national/local campaigns that has taken place during the coronavirus pandemic, has encouraged women experiencing domestic abuse to open their doors and walk free from the abuse that can happen behind closed doors. I know if these nation-wide campaigns were taking place when I was living this traumatic life then I would have felt safer to step forward, speak up and flee the violence, a lot sooner than I did. So, let’s try to keep these conversations going within our communities not only to encourage, support and make people feel safe, but to also reduce the stigma that can occur around domestic abuse. Long may these campaigns against domestic violence continue after the coronavirus pandemic eventually ends.
Useful Contact Numbers
- Emergency accommodation outside of Hastings Borough Councils working hours 01424 451999
- Portal’s helpline 0300 323 9985 or 01323 417598 for Eastbourne, Lewes and Wealden or 01424 716629 for Hastings, Rother and Rye or alternatively online at https://theportal.org.uk
- Women’s aid email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- Rise helpline 01273 622822 or general enquires 0300 323 9985 or https://www.riseuk.org.uk
- National Domestic Abuse helpline 0808 2000 247 or https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk
- Penny appeal Domestic Abuse support helpline 0808 802 3333 or http://www.pennyapp eal.org/
- Rights of women.org.uk offer free advice in family, immigration, and criminal law 020 7251 6577
- Men’s advice line 0808 801 0327
- National LGBT+ 0800 999 5428
- Karma Nirvana 0800 5999 247 Honour based abuse and forced marriage
- Shelter give advice if your homeless and fleeing Domestic Abuse
- Hastings and Rother Samaritans 0330 094 5717 or call 116 123 free from any phone
Fulfilling Lives – Good practice for DA clients
We would like to share with you this Fulfilling Lives South East Partnership Good Practice document on the subject of supporting women with complex needs who are experiencing, or at risk of, domestic abuse during Covid-19 restrictions.
During May and June 2020, people with lived experience of multiple and complex needs interviewed local client-facing staff and researched organisations’ responses to Covid-19 before bringing together the information presented in this document.
We hope you and your colleagues find this a useful tool in your work and if you have any feedback or suggestions about the document please do contact us.
Good Practice Document: https://www.bht.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Best-Practice-T2-COVID-Document-V12.pdf