Coronavirus: Government ‘needs to do more’ to protect domestic abuse victims during pandemic

‘It’s hell on earth living 24/7 now with my abuser – and I can’t get out to escape and put distance between us when I feel tension rising,’ says woman in lockdown with abusive partner 

Women's aid launches the lockdown campaign to highlight domestic abuse risks during coronavirus lockdown

Almost three quarters of Britons believe more needs to be done to ensure all domestic abuse victims are protected during the coronavirus emergency, a study has found.

The Amnesty International poll comes as the Domestic Abuse Bill returns to parliament for a second reading on Tuesday and the government faces increasing pressure to tackle the rise in domestic violence during lockdown.

Labour MPs have put forward an amendment to the legislation to include the new offence of “non-fatal strangulation” to tackle the rising number of killers claiming women died during “rough sex”. They have also suggested a dedicated fast-tracked fund for domestic abuse services hit by the virus crisis.

The Amnesty International study found a third of people think the government needs to deliver increased funding to support all victims of domestic abuse during the pandemic.

Researchers also found two-thirds of the British public think the government should implement stronger measures to safeguard the most vulnerable victims of domestic abuse, irrespective of their immigration status.

Nearly three quarters of the public were found to be in favour of the government funding hotel rooms for domestic abuse survivors. While hotel chains recently said they would convert empty rooms into emergency accommodation for victims fleeing abuse, ministers have not responded to this yet or provided the additional money to support plans.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “The fact that the UK public want the government to provide more support to domestic abuse victims isn’t surprising. We’ve recently seen shocking reports on the number of domestic abuse-related deaths and a huge surge in calls to helplines.

“People clearly want this domestic abuse emergency properly addressed, and there’s no time to lose in tackling it – it’s a matter of life and death. Any measures introduced must treat all victims equally – no matter where they’re from. The current system is almost entirely out of reach for migrant women and leaves them without refuge beds or a safe place to stay.

“The Domestic Abuse Bill is an opportunity for MPs to build a fairer system that ensures all women can escape abuse to safety and leaves no victim behind.”

The Independent recently reported migrant women subjected to domestic abuse are bearing the brunt of the pandemic due to being blocked from entering shelters and deterred from accessing healthcare, due to not having access to public funds.

A troubling study published by lead domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid on Tuesday found over two-thirds of victims currently experiencing abuse said it is escalating under lockdown. Almost three quarters said their abuser has more control over their life since the coronavirus emergency began.

And over a third of domestic abuse victims who are parents said their abuser was being more abusive to their children in the wake of the outbreak.

One woman, who chose to remain anonymous, said: “I am reliant upon my abuser to get food and medication as I am shielding for 12 weeks. This is being used against me.”

Over three-quarters of victims said the lockdown has made it substantially more difficult for them to be able to escape their perpetrator.

“I wanted to leave the relationship,” another woman said. “However, since Covid-19 and the lockdown coming into effect, it has made it harder to leave. I am a key worker who is around Covid positive patients, so I don’t feel like I can go home and stay with my parents.”

Domestic abuse victims also said they are feeling increasingly isolated because of the government’s strict social distancing measures. Eight in ten who are helped via “face-to-face informal networks” said these had either ceased entirely or been substantially reduced.

Another woman said: “It’s hell on earth living 24/7 now with my abuser – and I can’t get out to escape and put distance between us when I feel tension rising.”

Nicki Norman, acting chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Our survivor survey gives voice to the women experiencing abuse, from former or current partners, and how they are affected by lockdown. Covid-19 has laid bare the lack of protection for women and children experiencing domestic abuse and demonstrates the urgent need for action. After years of delay, we welcome the Domestic Abuse Bill’s return to parliament.

“However, significant changes are required to ensure this legislation delivers the transformation that survivors need. Women’s Aid has long called for the bill to deliver a safe child contact and family court system, stronger housing rights to enable survivors to escape an abuser, and equal protection and support for migrant women. As Covid-19 shuts down routes to safety and support, these reforms are more needed than ever.

“Most urgently, the national network of domestic abuse services needs emergency cash, and a guarantee of a secure funding future, to continue delivering the life-saving support survivors need so desperately right now. Women’s Aid is calling for at least £48.2m in emergency funding to help local services cope during this crisis.”

A report released by MPs on Monday revealed domestic abuse killings doubled over 21 days in the lockdown. Refuge, the UK’s largest provider of shelters for domestic abuse victims, reported a 49 per cent increase in people contacting its national domestic abuse helpline.

The Home Affairs Committee warned the lockdown will have “devastating consequences for a generation” unless the government provides urgent support for people cooped up at home with their abusers.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in