By Caroline Keeley
One of the darkest outcomes of the lockdown has been the rise in domestic abuse. The UN has predicted that 6 months of lockdown could result in an additional 31 million cases of domestic violence globally. It is important to note that domestic violence is not the only, nor the most prevalent, form of domestic abuse. In England and Wales, there is currently no legal definition for domestic abuse, but the Home Office provides the following cross-governmental definition:
“any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of their gender or sexuality.”
Controlling or coercive behaviour has been a criminal offence since 2015. Such behaviour can include:
Isolating a partner from their friends and family
Exerting control over a partner’s finances
Controlling a partner’s day to day activities (e.g. dictating what they wear).
The enforced proximity of the lockdown has provided greater opportunity for abuse to occur. This is reflected in the increase of 49% in calls to National Domestic Abuse Helpline (NDAH), as of 27 April 2020. Dealing with abuse has been on the government’s legislative agenda since 2017 in the form of the Domestic Abuse Bill, but due to the stagnation caused by Brexit and the pandemic, it is yet to pass into law.
However, help is available. Refuges remain open and the lockdown does not prohibit victims from using them. Boots pharmacies will now be offering safe spaces for victims of abuse where they can contact specialist domestic abuse services for support and advice. Refuge UK 24 hour helpline (0808 2000 247) continues to operate and can also be contacted online or via text. Other discrete services include:
Women’s Aid – live chat service (online)
Bright Sky – a free to download mobile app which provides information on domestic abuse and acts as a directory service for support services in the area.
At TWM, you can talk to one of our specialist solicitors in complete confidence. Our Family team has extensive experience of these issues within the context of our divorce and separation work, and in our private law children work.
For further information, please contact a member of our Family Law team.
For further details about our expertise in this area, please click here.