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Domestic violence charities all over the U.K. are experiencing a rise in demand since government restrictions on movement came into place to limit the spread of Covid-19. Refuge, the U.K’s largest domestic violence charity, has reported a 25% increase in calls to its helpline and enquiries via its website.
Campaigners have described the current ‘lockdown’ conditions as a ‘perfect storm’ for domestic violence as victims are required to stay indoors for prolonged periods with their perpetrators with no means of escape. Close proximity, financial pressures and deteriorating mental health are all factors leading to escalating tensions within households.
Many of the daily reprieves usually afforded to victims such as the school run or a trip to the shops have now been shut off or severely limited leaving victims feeling isolated, vulnerable and exposed.
If you are experiencing domestic violence or know someone who is, don’t assume services are closed. Many refuges remain open albeit with reduced staff and charities have re-routed secure helplines to private spaces within call handlers’ homes.
The Home Secretary has confirmed that victims are able to leave their homes and seek refuge despite the restrictions in place. Equally, if a Court Order is made excluding a perpetrator from a property to protect a victim then the perpetrator is able to move into alternative accommodation temporarily under the current rules. The police are also able to enter homes and will continue to provide support to victims.
Family courts are still operating and have prioritised cases where urgent assistance may be required through an injunction, non-molestation or occupation order. Injunctions can remove people from a property or order that you are entitled to live there if you are the one being excluded. They can also stipulate who must pay the mortgage. We are able to advise you on steps that can be taken to protect you and we may be able to recover your legal costs from your partner (if you are not eligible for legal aid), depending on your circumstances.
We are able to talk with you at a time that is convenient, whether this is out of hours or when your children / partner are not in earshot. An essential trip to the supermarket may provide an opportunity to speak in confidence. ..
If you are fearful for your safety but do not feel able to leave then, regardless of the lockdown, we would advise you to have an emergency bag ready containing essential clothes, any important documents such as your passport (and those for the children), a credit or debit card or some cash and a list of useful telephone numbers written down in the event you do not have your phone.
If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing domestic abuse, please consider the following sources of support:
Depending on your financial circumstances, you may be eligible for legal aid. Whilst we do not offer legal aid at TLT, we can help you if your finances mean you cannot apply for legal aid, and will point you in the direction of someone who can help if you are eligible.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch for further advice and guidance. Even if you do not feel able to take action right now, simply taking advice on what your options are can make you feel empowered about your future.
Authors: Zara Jordan and Natalie Drew
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at April 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.
20 April 2020