Coronavirus and Domestic abuse: how can we help?

For the past month, most of us have been assigned the simple task of staying home to help stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus. Although, this seemingly basic task has taken its toll on us all and staying at home during a remarkably sunny April has not been easy. However, for some, having to stay at home is much harder than imaginable.

Domestic abuse, as defined by the Metropolitan Police, is an ‘incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse’. This can include (but is not limited to): physical, physiological, emotional and sexual abuse.

According to the Office for National Statistics, an estimated 2.4 million people aged from 16 to 74 years old experienced domestic abuse in 2019 in the UK. Under the current lockdown conditions, those suffering from domestic abuse are left in horrible positions- most having to isolate at home with their abusers.

Looking at some international examples, during the lockdown in Spain, three women were killed in Spain from gender-based domestic violence-related incidents and use of the helpline for women experiencing abuse went up by 18%. France and other countries across Europe report similar increases.

More locally, the UK domestic abuse charity Refugee has reported a 700% spike in the number of calls that they are receiving since the beginning of lockdown. The home secretary has now announced a new campaign to help those suffering from domestic abuse in the UK titled #YouAreNotAlone which aims to reassure people that help is available for those who need it. The Home Office will also work with domestic abuse charities to raise awareness of where people can seek help.

However, we can do more.

Recently, an initiative in Spain was introduced to help women who are experiencing domestic violence under lockdown. When visiting the pharmacy, a woman can ask the pharmacist for ‘Mask-19’ to tell the pharmacist that they need help and the pharmacist will then take the woman’s details to inform the police about the situation. The women can then wait for the police at home or stay at the pharmacy until emergency services arrive.

In the UK, a preexisting scheme #AskForAngela, allowed women experiencing abuse in bars and other venues to ask for help by ‘asking for Angela’ to inform staff that they needed help. Although, since most venues have been shut to prevent the spread of the virus, this is no longer possible.

Now, a recent petition has been launched to start a scheme similar to the Spanish Mask-19 in the UK. The petition has 600 signatures at the time of writing and is petitioning the government to implement asking for Mask-19 to receive help in the UK.

Furthermore, donating to charities such as Refuge allows them to aid in several ways, the men, women and children experiencing domestic abuse at home.

While it is essential to stay inside to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is also important to stress that leaving the house to escape domestic abuse is considered essential travel and there is always help and support available to those who need it. No one should have to endure abuse and the current lockdown conditions are no excuse for abusers.

If need be, seek help and stay safe.

Useful information:

National Domestic Abuse Helpline Tel: 0808 2000 247

In an emergency, if you cannot speak aloud to the 999 operators, on your mobile dial 999 then 55 when prompted to make a ‘silent’ call to the police. Gov.uk provides more information on where to get support.

– Ipek Tsil Kara, year 10