Domestic Abuse And Covid 19

We read and hear on a daily basis of the sickness and death that has been ravaging the world with the current pandemic outbreak.  What we are also beginning to hear of are the effects of the current lockdown on families, restricted from being able to go out of the home.  Such restrictions when one is in a happy family relationship are one thing, and  are well documented in the media by such celebrities as Ellen De Generis and Gordon Ramsey, as they are locked up in their multi-million-pound mansions.  However, the real problems arise in families that were perhaps strained before the lockdown and don’t have the luxury of outside areas to frequent. 

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls for assistance and advice. 

The Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline freephone 24-hour number is 0800 027 1234, should you be in such a situation.

During lockdowns, the measures implemented to keep you safe from the virus are the very measures that are increasing domestic violence and making your home more unsafe.  This in itself could be creating a new public health crisis.

As a family lawyer, I am used to dealing with abusive relationships and I know from experience that situations where families are together for an extended period of time, increase the strain on relationships and increase the incidence of domestic violence.  It is often said January is divorce month for that very reason.  Also, a few years back I was asked if I would like to write a piece on divorce and advertise in an airline in-flight magazine, for this very reason too.  The thought of flicking through divorce advice when either going or returning from holiday just didn’t sit easy with me.  Come on it’s a holiday, not a counselling session. 

Domestic violence is often referred to as intimate terrorism for good reason.  What we saw in China was that there was a surge in intimate terrorism as families were not allowed to distance themselves from an abusive partner and the consequences are only now being seen.  France has reported a 30% increase in domestic violence so far and Spain has been no different.

We are 2 weeks behind the rest of Europe in our lockdown, are we 2 weeks behind them in a surge in domestic violence cases too?

In addition to physical violence, which is not present in every abusive relationship, common methods of the abuser of isolation from friends, family and employment, constant monitoring of the partner and laying down detailed rules as to what they can and cannot do together with restrictions on access to food and clothing.  The lockdown is necessary in order to restrict the spread of Covid 19, that cannot be questioned, however it is giving more power to the abuser.  The abuser can now call the shots like never before. This isolation has removed the support networks of friends and family that would normally be utilized thus making it far more difficult for victims to get help or escape.

I often say to my clients, I am as entitled to abuse you whether physically or mentally as your partner.  Yet, abuse continues and it seems such abuse will be flourishing in the current situation.  The law in Scotland does protect people suffering from abuse.  There are measures available to protect you from an abusive partner and these measures are still available whether we are in lockdown or not.  My advice in these situations is no different from what is always is.  If you are being threatened by your partner or your partner is physically abusive towards you then in the first instance call the police.  To avoid reporting the behaviour will simply perpetuate it and it is likely to deteriorate.  I would then arrange a remote consultation with a family lawyer.  A simple email or telephone call would initiate some free advice or alternatively from our website start a LiveChat session and you will receive immediate urgent advice.  

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