By Courtney Brindley, 28th April 2020.
Worrying numbers of Domestic Violence have emerged across the UK as we enter our fifth week of Lockdown.
With Domestic Violence rates booming since Lockdown, this has emerged a new crisis within Refuges across the UK. A report by an MP earlier this week has revealed that calls to Domestic Violence Helplines have risen by 49% since Lockdown was called.
Speaking exclusively to Amber* who is a staff member from a Refuge in Nottingham, has revealed that they are under a lot of pressure. “There are so many worries including the Mental Health of everyone, as we are a Refuge for women with complex needs. Some of the women here already have extremely complex mental health, so the additional pressures the current pandemic and restrictions to additional support service is a worry.”
The Refuge are also unable to accept donations from the public that they rely so heavily on; where baby equipment, toys and clothing are concerned, due to fears of contamination. They are working tirelessly to ensure that they minimise the possibility of an outbreak. “If staff were to become infected they would not be able to come to work. Due to the new staffing rota and procedures we have put into place we feel we have reduced the risk of all staff becoming sick at one time.”
The women and children are now unable to move out of the Refuge and progress with their lives, due to new complications brought by Covid-19. The women are unable to move into new accommodation therefore placing delays on how quick they are able to leave. “Delays on applications for houses have been impacted, along with viewings and sign-ups for properties that had already been offered.”
However some hope has arisen from the crisis, as Large company Morrisons were contacted in hopes they would be able to give their support. Morrisons were able to provide the Refuge with essentials such as food, toiletries and colouring activities for the children, ensuring all safety measures were in place before accepting the goods. “PPE is available to us where needed, we take more robust hygiene procedures, including more deep cleans, social distancing, and having less staff in the small office at once.”
Researchers at the Counting Dead Women Project have revealed that 14 women and 2 children had been killed during the first three weeks of Lockdown. This figure has been the largest recorded for 11 years as stats are currently over double the average. Staff member Amber* fears that numbers will continue to rise, but is hopeful that the support in place for fleeing families will continue. “Leaving the abusive relationship and coming into a Refuge in Lockdown would be extremely difficult in so many ways, but the families’ resilience to the situation has been amazing and we hope that with the ongoing intense support and reassurance that this will continue.”
Like many others, the lives of those at the Refuge has changed dramatically since the Government called for Lockdown just a few weeks ago. The women and children are unable to leave the refuge entirely, staff are the only ones allowed in and out. This is proving difficult for families who are trying to get their lives back on track but are unable to do so as they cannot leave the Refuge. This is a key time for many families as they strive to regain their freedom, however this has been made impossible for them; fuelling concerns that many women will go back to the perpetrator. “Many women are more frustrated that this is another barrier they are facing in order to move forward with their lives.”
The staff were quick to praise the support of other local organisations. Tara’s Angels have made a donation towards purchasing activities for the women and children to keep them occupied during Lockdown. “There is no specific need for items but all of this can change on a day to day basis, for example if a new family arrives with no more than the clothes on their back.”
Many Refuges have never faced a situation like this before, as the crisis is slowly unfolding behind closed doors. As Domestic Violence rates continue to soar across the UK, Refuges are facing another added pressure.
✅ The Women’s Aid website has links to Live Chat, information, support services and details of helplines here: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/
✅ If you are living with an abusive partner, try to keep a mobile phone on you at all times if possible and do not be afraid to call 999 in an emergency.
✅If you can’t speak after calling 999, there is a system called Silent Solution. Listen to the questions from the 999 operator. Respond by coughing or tapping the handset if you can. If prompted, press 55 on your phone. This lets the 999 call operator know it’s an emergency and that you aren’t safe to speak.
*Names have been changed to protect identity.