Domestic Abuse, Sexual Abuse and Covid-19
April 9, 2020
This is a difficult and stressful time for everyone. If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic or sexual abuse it will be even harder. This is because for most of us it will mean:
- Increased time at home
- Increased time in close proximity to the person causing harm
- Increased emotional and financial stress.
- Increased isolation
- Reduced family and social support
- Increased risk of debilitating illness
Helplines are open – Sheffield’s Domestic Abuse Helpline is provided by IDAS and is free to call from mobiles and landlines 0808 808 2241 more information about IDAS services during the lock down can be found here and Frequently Asked Questions for people experiencing abuse can be found here.
England: Freephone 24
hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline:
0808 2000 247 (run by Refuge)
Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327
Respect helpline: 0808 802 4040 (for anyone worried that they may be harming someone else)
Galop: 0800 999 5428 (national helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people experiencing domestic abuse)
Forced Marriage Unit: 0207 008 0151
If you suspect that an abuser is monitoring your internet usage, find out how to hide your browser history. You can get support with preventing your abuser from tracking you using technology on the Refuge website here at the bottom right of the screen.
There is also a webchat slot for professionals supporting people affected by domestic abuse during the pandemic: Monday – Friday 10am – 12noon www.idas.org.uk
If you have a safety plan review it with your support worker. Or consider creating one and sharing with a trusted friend or family member – there is advice and a template here https://www.idas.org.uk/our-services/domestic-abuse/safety-plan/ or you can use the Women’s Aid Survivors handbook https://www.womensaid.org.uk/the-survivors-handbook/ and there is new advice for the current situation here https://www.womensaid.org.uk/covid-19-coronavirus-safety-advice-for-survivors/.
You may want to consider:
- setting up code words for safe contact – so that you can text or message someone to let them know if things are difficult without alerting the person who is abusing you.
- save your support worker’s number under a pseudonym or different name e.g. as the health visitor, your manager, a friend – anything that is realistic and safe.
- think about who you are having contact with – a worker, friends or family who can raise the alarm if you need emergency help.
- think about where you can flee to if needed e.g. is there a neighbour or friend you can rely on?
- Have you got a health visitor, do you know the local neighbourhood police officer? Is there another worker you can keep in touch with?
- Think about what action you / your children can take if the situation gets worse at home – in an emergency how would you get out or raise the alarm?
- Chayn (https://chayn.co/) have set up a Telegram channel which survivors can sign up to – they’ll be sharing supportive notes and helpful info every day
- There are also useful apps e.g. the Hollie Guard app which can also offer reassurance
- Bright Sky app is currently available in English, Urdu, Punjabi or Polish and is free to download.
- If you are worried about your finances and the abuse making things worse at this difficult time there is advice and a new resource that you can access from Surviving Economic Abuse https://survivingeconomicabuse.org/economic-abuse-and-the-covid-19-outbreak/
- Safelives has published safety planning guidance for victims – click here or go to https://safelives.org.uk/news-views/domestic-abuse-and-covid-19
- Refuge operates a ‘refuge chat bot’ offering help with issues with tech – such as phones, social media, whatsapp etc. see the bottom right of the screen on this page: https://www.refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/safety-planning-leaving-abuser/
If it’s an emergency always ring 999. South Yorkshire Police have also issued guidance here. Familiarise yourself with The Silent Solution system. This is a system for victims of domestic abuse who might be afraid of further danger and escalation of harm if they are overheard when calling 999 in an emergency.
When somebody calls 999, an operator will ask which emergency service is required. If you are is not able to ask for help, your call will be forwarded to a police system and you will hear an automated message.
If 55 is pressed by the caller, the system will detect this. The operator will then transfer the call to the relevant police force as an emergency. Click here to find out more.
Housing advice services, and refuges and other emergency accommodation are operating as normal, information is here: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/housing/housing-advice-options-line
A new form has been created here to provide a call back facility for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Free travel for survivors to reach
refuge. Rail to refuge rolled out across all of England, Scotland and
Train companies will now cover the cost of train tickets for anyone travelling to refuge accommodation while coronavirus lockdown measures are in force, in a joint initiative with Women’s Aid.
The temporary industry-wide scheme is a donation from the rail Delivery Group and follows the successful launch of similar initiatives by Southeastern and GWR prior to the coronavirus outbreak.
Sexual Assault or Rape
If you have recently been sexually assaulted you can ring 999 and report to the Police and they will refer you to Hackenthorpe Lodge the South Yorkshire Sexual Assault Referral Centre https://www.hackenthorpelodge.org/. Or you can ring Hackenthorpe Lodge direct to make an appointment on 0330 223 0938.
The Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre cannot offer face to face counselling while the situation continues but telephone support will be offered to people needing support from an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor. For more information and useful resources to help maintain mental well-being during this difficult time go to https://srasac.org.uk/online-resources. The office is not currently staffed however you are still able to leave messages on the phone 0114 2412766 or by email to email@example.com. All messages and emails will be picked up daily Monday – Friday but our response times may be slower than usual.
Rape Crisis England and Wales have produced some guidance for the current situation herehttps://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-help/coronavirus/.
For the latest government guidance on child contact arrangements please go to https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/coronavirus-crisis-guidance-on-compliance-with-family-court-child-arrangement-orders/
Rights of Women have also produced some guidance around child contact arrangements and COVID 19 / Coronavirus, including for women experiencing domestic abuse – which can be found here: https://rightsofwomen.org.uk/get-information/family-
IDAS have developed a dedicated website around family courts and domestic abuse https://familycourts.idas.org.uk/.
Advice for people who are worried about hurting someone else
Inspire to Change – www.inspiretochange.co.uk the programme for people who want to address their abusive behaviour is open and taking referrals – support can still be offered by telephone and email. An information leaflet is here and they have set up a youtube channel with advice and information on managing feelings and behaviour during the lockdown here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcSw2CzfFWpy0slG5ad9N4A/featured?disable_polymer=1
What about pets? Dogs Trust are still operating the Freedom Project (pet fostering service), and Paws Protect (cats) is still operational during this time. For more information please contact the Dogs Trust Freedom Project or Paws Protect. If you do not live within the coverage area then please do contact the team anyway who will see if they are able to help