‘Stay Home Stay Safe’- this tag line is being heavily promoted by the government as they seek to protect the safety of its citizens as well as the functionality of the NHS. There is no doubt that this concept has far reaching implications for everyone as they navigate our ‘new normal’, however, for some, the consequences are even more severe as they fear for their physical safety and security whilst they endure isolation with an abusive partner or family member.
The realities of domestic violence are stark in normal circumstances, with the police having recorded 746,219 domestic abuse-related crimes in the year ending March 2019 according to government statistics. Unfortunately, this number is expected to increase with victims being required to spend all day with their abusers amid UK’s lockdown.
Time spent together in the family home limits the opportunity for victims to seek help from outside sources and broadens opportunity for perpetrators to inflict their abuse. This, in conjunction with the added stresses in relation to income and health, could provide the setting for a pandemic on top of a pandemic with many regions including Northern Ireland, Paris and New South Wales already recording significant increases in incidents.
This situation is alarming for victims and activists alike who fear for the safety of those people that remain helpless. It is encouraging that some governments are taking action, putting in place arrangements for alternative accommodation for victims and children to be made available in vacant hotels and B&Bs giving them the opportunity to remove themselves from a potentially dangerous environment.
People in fear for their safety and/or the safety of their children for the reasons stated above should also consider that the courts remain open in order to accommodate matters of the upmost importance and urgency. This is inclusive of ensuring the safety of people in domestically violent situations. On this basis, we would encourage anyone facing a domestically violent situation to obtain legal advice in order to explore some of the protections that could be afforded to them
If you feel that it would compromise your safety or the safety of others to seek help directly, please note if you should call 999 silently whilst subsequently dialling 55 they will be alerted that there is cause for concern. Furthermore, if you are concerned about the safety of a neighbour or other member of your community you may be in a position to notify the authorities yourself. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring the safety of the broader community in these unprecedented times.
If you need any further information on the matters discussed above, please contact a member of our Family Department who would be happy to provide you with whatever guidance you may need.
Please note that this information is for guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking full legal advice on specific facts and circumstances.