Domestic violence and the coronavirus

'Stay at home to save lives' is the message, but what happens if home is not a safe place?

" In the year ending March 2019 an estimated 2.4 million adults experienced abuse in the home. These figures were published by The Office of National Statistics."

The home secretary, Priti Patel, warned in the Mail on Sunday that new guidelines around social distancing and self-isolation may leave domestic abuse victims more at risk. She also stated that victims can leave the home to seek refuge.

Police and charities will continue operations and refuges remain open. The police have also reassured the public that all domestic abuse victims, whether physical, emotional or otherwise, will be supported.

As I write, we are into the sixth day of lockdown. We collectively feel like we are living through a trauma. It feels like the world as we knew it has dramatically changed and because of this experience things can never be the same again.

The loss of our illusion of security has been shattered for many, as well as our loss of freedom. As in all crisis situations, such as the one we are currently experiencing, most people turn into the enemy.

Crises such as these also tend to bring out the best of human behaviour. We have already seen examples of this, in the response to a call for arms in returning formally retired NHS staff to the front line, and over 400,000 people volunteering to help the NHS.

However, as well as bringing out the best of human behaviour it also has the potential to bring out the worst in some people. Some examples are people bulk buying, ignoring Government advice, using the virus as a weapon.

I myself was a victim of fraudsters pretending to be from HMRC asking for card and bank details to get a tax refund. Justice secretary Robert Buckland warned the commons on Tuesday 25th of March 2020 that the UK was likely to see a rise in cyber criminality and fraud.

He also warned that there would most likely be a significant rise in cases of domestic violence and abuse during this pandemic. Figures from China and Italy confirm rises in domestic violence as threefold since lockdown.

In times of prolonged disruption such as these, people experience stress. The more stress and pressure experienced, the greater the risk of acts of violence and abuse by the perpetrator.

In order to protect and support victims and vulnerable children, we need to be aware and put plans in place during a lockdown.

More on this later, but for now let’s look at the characteristics and behaviour that is common in domestic violence and partner abuse perpetrators.

Common themes and experiences of victims of intimate partner violence and abuse

Coronavirus has created a world full of uncertainty and the constant updating of developments about the pandemic can feel relentless for some.

All this can take its toll on people's mental health, especially those with preexisting mental health issues, such as anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders and depression.

It can also leave us feeling hopeless, for some the feeling of being powerless and unable to control the situation. This can lead some men (and in fewer cases some women) to look to maintain power and control in their relationship.

The abuse perpetrator may look to take back some power and control through domination of the relationship with their intimate partner.

The Power Wheel is a model developed in the 1980s by leading advocates fighting domestic abuse and violence.

By speaking to thousands of victims, they found that physical abuse against an intimate partner is normally characterised by a pattern of behaviours used to control and dominate the partner. These behaviours are listed below.

• using intimidation

• using emotional abuse

• using isolation

• minimizing, denying and blaming

• using children

• using male privilege

• using economic abuse

• using coercion and threats

Police and charity services are conducting a joint approach to protect and support victims of abuse.

There is in place, planning for managing situations with known cases - but what if you have a controlling partner who is likely to become an abuser?

What can we do to keep ourselves and our children safe during this pandemic?

As we continue the fight against the coronavirus, we must not forget those living in dangerous situations.
It is vital that anybody experiencing violence to access immediate and appropriate support (please refer to the list of services below), and not to be left trapped in the home with the abuser.

If you feel threatened by your partner and are scared of things escalating you should seek information and support from the list below.

Set a facility to make silent 999 calls and self-deleting apps such as Snapchat.

If it is safe to do so, you should inform family and friends of your concerns.

Maybe agree with family members or friends that you will use a password which will inform them to contact the police. If you are working from home, you can make your employer aware of your situation.

Of course, in an emergency, you should always call the police on 999. You can also call the non-emergency number 101 for support and advice.

If you are a friend or family member, look out for signs of abusive or controlling behaviour and report any concerns to authorities.

There is also help for potential perpetrators of abuse, if you find yourself stressed and frightened by the turn of events and think you might abuse your partner, visit respect.org.uk.

The web site works with perpetrators as well as male victims of domestic abuse.

Tension in relationships are likely to occur, early intervention is vital in these times to stop the conflict from escalating.

If you find, that you are beginning to struggle with relationship difficulties, perhaps it’s time to consider early intervention through talking to a professional such as a qualified online relationship therapist.

Learning some new skills to improve communication with partners as well as finding more healthy ways to problem solve and deal with conflict would be useful. A session or two with an experienced relationship expert would help greatly.

Below is a list of domestic charities and organisations working to provide support, protection and education.

List of organisations that provide support

National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV)
Tel  0800 970 2070

National Domestic Violence Helpline
Free 24 hour advice and support for emergency accommodation
Tel 0808 200 0247

Refuge
Information about the contingency plans in place to manage the current situation. Also works with male victims as well as abusers.
Tel  0808 801 0327

Womens Aid
11 different languages spoken and audio. Legal and housing advice as well as safety planning. Latest coronavirus safety advice.

National LGBT Domestic Abuse Broken Rainbow UK
Support for the LGBT community staffed by people from the community
Tel 08452 60 44 60

Respect UK
For male victims, as well as male abusers.
Tel 0808 802 40 40

Bright Sky app
Free app from Vodaphone on iPhone or Android, which provides a directory of specialist support.

Relate UK
Provide relationship counselling with many offering online services

Counseling Directory UK
Provides a directory of thousands of accredited therapists, working in all areas of mental health. From help in managing anxiety to qualified relationship therapists. An extensive list of online counsellors.

Final Words

The coronavirus presents a grave challenge to us all, from the sense of despair comes a coming together of collective solidarity.

I feel that, one lesson from all this is that we learn more about what we can't change and what we can change.

One of the things we can change is to live in a world that is free from abuse and violence.

By raising awareness of domestic violence, it is my hope that we can begin to put an end to it.

Although, I am realistic enough to know that it will be much easier to win the war against the Coronavirus than the one against domestic violence. I urge you all to keep safe in your homes, and to reach out and seek support in doing this.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Pasquale Forcellati PGdip, NCS Accred Relationship and Psychosexual Therapist

In 2004 I started working for the NHS as a Mental Health Advocate, trained as Psychodynamic Therapist. I became qualified as a Couples Counselor in 2010. Went on to become a Sex and Addiction Therapist. My. areas of specialisms are working with couples experiencing issues around intimacy, and partners recovering from compulsive behaviour.… Read more

Written by Pasquale Forcellati PGdip, NCS Accred Relationship and Psychosexual Therapist

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