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Domestic abuse – why staying home isn’t safe for everyone and what you can do to help

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The restrictions on movement introduced to stop the spread of Covid-19 have created another crisis: a rise in domestic abuse.

The National Domestic Abuse helpline has reported a 25% increase in calls since the coronavirus lockdown began, as well as a 150% increase in visits to their website.

Domestic abuse is always a workplace issue. Trade unions know that work is often a place of safety for women experiencing domestic abuse.

But at the moment, many workers are subject to stringent social distancing measures which mean they have to work from home, isolated from their support networks.

For those at risk of domestic abuse, this may be unsafe.

But because their most frequent contact is likely to be with their line manager, co-workers and trade unions reps, now more than ever we all have a role to play in supporting those at risk of domestic abuse.

You can spot signs, provide support and help stop further abuse.

What to do if you know or fear someone may be experiencing domestic abuse

1. Spot abuse: If you think someone’s behaviour is unusual, it is better to ask than to assume. Consider the use of closed questions (questions to which they can answer “yes” or “no”) in case someone else may be listening.

2. Remember: domestic abuse isn’t always physical. It’s a pattern of controlling and intimidating behaviour that can be emotional, economic, psychological or sexual. It can happen in same-sex and heterosexual relationships.

3. Support: The most important thing you can do is listen and believe. Keep in touch. This could be through regular video or phone calls, or if it is safer via emails or text messages. Be careful and sensitive. Keep checking in with them, even if they don’t want to seek help yet.

4. Stop abuse: Encourage them to call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247. The helpline will put them in touch with local services who can help them make a plan to get safe. People experiencing domestic abuse are allowed to leave their home to seek help during lockdown. If serious domestic abuse is disclosed, you should encourage them to call 101, or 999 if the situation is critical.

  • The Bright Sky mobile app: free to download, provides support and information to employers and anyone who may be experiencing domestic abuse
  • Respect charity : provide confidential advice to perpetrators of violence to help them choose to stop, 0808 802 4040 or www.respectphoneline.org.uk
  • Women’s Aid: Survivors Handbook has practical advice and information on seeking support, https://www.womensaid.org.uk/the-survivors-handbook/
    Full list of specialist support services below.

5. Ending domestic abuse: If you know or suspect someone is at risk of perpetrating domestic abuse, you should encourage them to stop. Respect phoneline helps perpetrators of violence and abuse to end their behaviour. Their message is: “When the world is unsafe, do not make home unsafe. Get help to manage your behaviour.”

We all have a role to play to stopping domestic abuse

Domestic abuse and coronavirus - Guide for reps

These are extraordinary times. The isolation measures in response to COVID-19 mean many more people are working from home. We're asking employers and reps to take practical action to help protect and support people they know or fear are experiencing domestic abuse.

You can't replace specialist services, but this guide will help you develop the awareness and skills to give the best support and advice you can to someone who may be in danger.

We need the government to implement an urgent strategy to protect women and their families and to prevent abuse during COVID-19.

The TUC join our sisters in the VAWG sector in calling for:

  • Representation in the crisis response planning
    Include the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and Victims Commissioner in the COVID-19 ministerial group and relevant COBRA meetings. Violence against women and girls must be factored into the highest levels of crisis response planning.
  • Urgent resourcing for the specialist support sector
    Demand for services is increasing and will likely rise even higher once lockdown is lifted. An immediate cash injection is needed to ensure specialist services, particularly grassroots organisations, can meet increased levels of demand and provide the effective, lifesaving support women and children need.
  • Raise awareness of the need to be vigilant
    Take proactive steps to raise awareness of the rise in domestic abuse and that those perpetrating it are committing a crime. Develop government guidance with the specialist VAWG services and relevant public authorities on social distancing and self-isolation specifically for those at risk of harm in the home and for their employers.
  • Equal support for all survivors
    Women with no recourse to public funds are at particular risk from VAWG due to the major barriers they face in accessing support. In a public emergency, no woman should fall outside a basic safety net. The government should end the ‘no recourse to public funds’ conditions so that all women experiencing or at risk of VAWG have immediate access to financial and housing support to escape violence.
    No woman should have to face the devastating choice of destitution or remaining with the perpetrator.

Full list of specialist support services

National Domestic Abuse Helpline
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline website provides guidance and support for potential victims, as well as those who are worried about friends and loved ones. They can also be called, for free and in confidence, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247. The website also has a form through which women can book a safe time for a call from the team.

Refuge
Free 24 hour helpline: 0808 80 10 800

Women’s Aid
Women’s Aid has provided additional advice specifically designed for the current coronavirus outbreak, including a live chat service if it is difficult to talk on the phone.

End Violence Against Women Coalition
Briefing on COVID-19 from specialist support services

Men’s Advice Line
The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them. It can be contacted on 0808 801 0327.

Galop - for members of the LGBT+ community
If you are a member of the LGBT+ community, Galop runs a specialist helpline on 0800 999 5428 or email help@galop.org.uk.

Economic abuse
If you are concerned about how coronavirus may affect your finances and leave you vulnerable to economic abuse, please see the advice provided by HM Treasury on what support is on offer. The charity Surviving Economic Abuse has also provided additional guidance and support.

Rights of Women
National family law legal helpline: 020 7251 6577 or www.rightsofwomen.org.uk/get-information/family-law

Hestia
Hestia provides a free-to-download mobile app, Bright Sky, which provides support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those concerned about someone they know.

Chayn
Chayn provides online help and resources in a number of languages, ranging from identifying manipulative situations and how friends can support those being abused.

Support for professionals
SafeLives is providing guida
nce and support to professionals and those working in the domestic abuse sector, as well as additional advice for those at risk.

Support if you are worried about hurting someone
If you are worried about hurting the ones you love while staying at home, call the Respect Phoneline for support and help to manage your behaviour, 0808 8024040.

TUC Publications

Domestic violence and the workplace
Our report on the impact domestic abuse has on women’s working lives

Unequal, trapped and controlled
TUC and Women’s Aid joint report on women’s experience of financial abuse.

Safe at home, safe at workETUC’s report on trade union strategies to prevent, manage and eliminate violence against women.

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