Help and support is available – that’s our message to victims of domestic abuse during lockdown.
The Government’s stay-at-home advice in response to the Covid-19 pandemic can present new challenges for those experiencing domestic abuse.
Victims may be at home with their abuser – feeling unsafe and unable to escape.
Domestic abuse isn’t always physical but is a pattern of controlling, threatening and coercive behaviour, which can include emotional, economic, psychological or sexual abuse.
Abuse is a choice a perpetrator makes and isolation is already used by many as a tool of control.
Northumbria Police’s Detective Superintendent Deborah Alderson, of the Safeguarding Department, wants to reach out to send a clear message to those experiencing domestic abuse and living in fear.
She said: “We know that home is not a safe place for those experiencing domestic abuse, and the much-needed respite often provided by work and school may no longer be available.
“Isolation is already a tool used by abusers. Therefore, we can expect that self-isolation and social distancing will be used to coerce and control victims. It will also inevitably close off community support networks.”
She added: “If your home is not a safe environment then we urge you to seek support, to contact police. We will do everything we can do to support you which can include finding safe accommodation for you and your children or removing abusers from homes.”
With more of us at home during the lockdown people are being asked to be alert to domestic abuse and if they have any concerns about a neighbour or relative to contact police rather than approaching the abuser or putting yourselves in danger.
Det Supt Alderson also had a very clear message for abusers.
“I want to be clear – abuse is a choice made by the abuser,” she said. “To those perpetrating abuse – we will take action against you and can and will remove you from your home to stop you committing further harm.
“I would urge anyone who is worried that their behaviour may be abusive to seek advice from the charity Respect which has a website and helpline.”
Advice from domestic abuse support networks to victims includes ensuring your phone is always charged with credit topped up – and at the first sign of abuse ring for help.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “The sad reality is that home isn’t a place of safety for everyone and right now those suffering domestic abuse may well be feeling more vulnerable and trapped than ever.
“I would urge people who are suffering to seek help as soon as you can, please don’t wait until this whole Coronavirus crisis passes.
“It is important people know that help is absolutely still here for them – from Northumbria Police and local support services too.
“I will continue to fund vital support services during this time."
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you can report an incident by ringing 101 or visiting our website at www.northumbria.pnn.police.uk. Also in a non-emergency situation you can text us on 07786 200814.
In an emergency, always call 999. If you dial 999 and are unable to speak, the emergency operator will ask you to dial 55 and to follow their instruction to quickly put you in touch with police.
As well as the police, there are a number of specialist organisations which provide support.
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline offers a free helpline – 0808 2000 247 – that can provide victims/survivors with emotional support and advice on their options and signpost to local services.
Where it isn’t safe to telephone, Women’s Aid has an instant messaging service (Monday–Friday, 10am–12pm) which can be accessed via https://chat.womensaid.org.uk/
For more information about domestic abuse advice search Northumbria Police online, where there is also guidance on deleting your internet history.