By Mark Heptinstall, partner and head of family at Slater Heelis Solicitors
The Coronavirus pandemic continues to change the way we live our lives and can make life difficult for those already experiencing hardships at home.
Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity says calls to its helpline have risen by 25% since lockdown measures began, almost three weeks ago.
Mark Heptinstall, partner and head of family at Slater Heelis Solicitors has shared some advice for those that may be at risk of domestic abuse during the Easter bank holiday weekend, and extended lockdown period.
The lockdown measures that have been introduced are vital to save as many lives as possible, but the strain caused to many households should not be underestimated. The Easter weekend coupled with lockdown can cause acute problems for victims of domestic abuse, and is likely to increase their risk of harm.
Those that think they may be at higher risk during the Easter weekend should consider the following to help diffuse home situations:
- Speak to a neighbour – keep up regular contact with a neighbour. Make sure you see or speak to them daily, while adhering to social distancing rules. You can also agree a code if further help is needed or if the alarm needs to be raised. For example, ask them if they’re still selling a book or DVD – they will take this as the agreed signal.
- Maintain regular contact – remain in regular contact with friends and family members via phone too. They will be able to share reassurances and will notice if they haven’t heard from you in a while.
- Take a break from the home – leave the house for your daily exercise and essential shopping. Even if you do not feel like exercising, an hour away from the home could help clear the air and dissolve the immediate situation
- Have somewhere else to stay – Government announcements have made it clear that you can leave the home to seek refuge. Make sure a friend or family has a place for you to stay, if you need to leave your home.
What can I do if I am at risk of domestic abuse during lockdown?
If you are at risk of domestic abuse, Government guidelines make it clear that you can leave the home to seek refuge. However, this may often easier be said that done.
It is vital to call 999 if you are in immediate danger. If you cannot speak out loud, you can call 999 and then press 55 to confirm that the call is a genuine emergency. The police have wide-ranging powers in respect of domestic abuse, and it is important to remember that domestic abuse includes all forms of abuse, including financial and emotional abuse. The police can also take action in respect of controlling and/or coercive behaviour.
Domestic abuse charity lines and websites are still operating, with the relevant contact details below:
- Refuge National Domestic Abuse helpline (24 hours): 0808 200 0247 | https://www.refuge.org.uk/
- Women’s Aid: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/
- Rights of Women: 020 7251 6577 | https://rightsofwomen.org.uk/
- Galop (LGBT+): 0800 999 5428 | http://www.galop.org.uk/
- Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327 | https://mensadviceline.org.uk/
The Family Court continues to operate during the current Covid 19 pandemic, and Slater Heelis is an expert at applying for protective orders from domestic abuse. To contact us about domestic abuse, please call: 0161 969 3131 or via our website: https://www.slaterheelis.co.uk/.