Calls to the National Domestic Abuse helplines have dramatically increased since Britain went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic – but how can victims access help?

The Government guidance to stay at home may not be the safest option for some, as self-isolating with an abusive partner could heighten tensions and leave very little room to escape domestic violence. According to charity Refuge, aid calls have increased by 25 per cent since the lockdown was imposed.

Isolation is already a common tactic used by perpetrators to exert control over their partners, and the global pandemic could become yet another excuse to restrict someone's movements.   

Lockdown measures do not stop victims from leaving the house to access help.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said: “Whilst our advice is to stay at home, anyone who is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, is still able to leave and seek refuge. Refuges remain open, and the police will provide support to all individuals who are being abused –whether physically, emotionally, or otherwise.”

Train companies are now offering free travel for people feeling domestic abuse. Rail Delivery Group has announced a nation-wide partnership with Women’s Aid, allowing the organisation to book free travel for victims through the ‘rail to refuge’ scheme.    

How can I access help? Silent Solutions

If you need to call the Police in an emergency but talking would put you in further danger, you can use The Silent Solution System.

When you call 999, an operator will ask which emergency service you need. If you are unable to talk, hold the line until you hear the message “you are through to the police”. You should then press 55 – your call will be transferred to the local police force as an emergency.

The Silent Solution system only works on mobile.

I do not want to involve the police – what can I do?

If you are not in immediate danger, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

If you can’t call because your partner is in the home, you can still contact the Helpline via Refuge’s contact form at www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk.

Additionally, Women’s Aid runs a live chat Monday to Friday 10-12pm at https://www.womensaid.org.uk/

These charities work with an array of professionals, from lawyers to counsellors to ensure victims can leave abusive relationships.

I’m an immigrant – can I still access help?

Yes. You can still call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline regardless of your immigration status.

If you are a woman from an Asian or Afro-Caribbean background you can reach out to Southall Black Sisters at www.southallblacksisters.org.uk.

Latin American Women’s Aid offers help and advice in Spanish and Portuguese at http://lawadv.org.uk/

And Opoka provide a national helpline for Polish women living in the UK: http://opoka.org.uk/en/

Messenger Newspapers: Man standing in the way of a woman trying to leave the house
© Copyright Laura Dodsworth

I’m unsure whether I am a victim - What counts as domestic abuse?

Changes to the Domestic Abuse Bill last year made psychological abuse within a relationship illegal.

With incidents of domestic abuse spiralling during the coronavirus lockdown it is a good time to reacquaint yourself with the law.

Enforced in England and Wales, the amendments made the following 11 acts towards a partner illegal.

1. Sharing sexually explicit images of a partner

Laws surrounding ‘revenge porn’ make it illegal for someone to share intimate photographs of you with anyone, online or otherwise.

2. Restricting your access to money

Even if they earn more money than you, the law says your partner cannot stop you from accessing cash within the relationship.

3. Putting you down

Persistent name-calling, mocking and other forms of insulting behaviour are now illegal.

4. Stopping a partner from seeing friends or family

Monitoring or blocking of calls and emails, telling you where you can or cannot go, and preventing you from seeing your friends or relatives is against the law. If your partner isolates you from the people you love, they could face the wrath of the law.

5. Scaring you

Your partner might not physically assault you, but if they are doing enough to frighten you, they are committing an offence. That could include using their size to intimidate, punching walls, breaking things around the house, even suicide threats. 

6. Threatening to reveal private things about you

Repeated threats to reveal personal and private information is now classed as a form of abuse. It could include revealing details about health or sexual orientation.

7. Putting tracking devices on your phone

It is illegal under the new legislation to “monitor a person using online communication tools or spyware”.

8. Being extremely jealous

Persistent accusation of cheating and “extreme jealousy, including possessiveness and ridiculous accusations of cheating” all come under the new legislation.

9. Forcing you to obey their rules

The CPS says if a partner is forced to abide by stringent rules set by a partner, it could mean they are committing a crime.

10. Controlling what you wear

Your partner taking control over any part of your life is highlighted in the new legislation, including restricting who you see and where you go. Controlling what you wear or how you look could also now be grounds for prosecution under the changes.

11. Making you do things you don’t want to

Your partner forcing you to commit crimes, neglecting or abusing your children, or forcing you not to reveal anything about your relationship to the authorities all count as abuse.

Forcing you to have sex when you don’t want to, look at pornographic material, or have sex with others also falls under this bracket.