Covid-19 and domestic abuse: when home isn’t a safe haven

Home Secretary Priti Patel wrote an article in the Mail on Sunday on 29 March 2020, in which she recognised that which legal aid practitioners have been saying since the coronavirus outbreak pandemic began: “for many, home is not the safe haven that it should be”.

Her message to abusers was clear: “you will not get away with your crimes”.

There has been much discussion amongst the legal community online that the new rules on staying at home are leaving vulnerable adults and children even more at risk.

For the many victims of domestic abuse in all the forms that it takes; physical, psychological or emotional, a simple trip to visit friends for coffee or to a local shop is a much-needed respite from their abusers’ behaviour. But with strict new rules in place, police have also warned that the new rules make victims even more vulnerable.

Priti Patel commented: “I am acutely aware that the necessary guidelines about social distancing and self-isolation may leave victims of hidden crimes such as domestic abuse and child sexual abuse feeling especially isolated vulnerable and exposed. My message to every potential victim is simple: we have not forgotten you and we will not let you down”.

Her position on staying at home was crystal clear, that whilst the advice is to stay at home, anyone who is at risk of or is 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.

At MSB, we have three Resolution accredited domestic abuse specialists, who can provide advice and support, and seek to apply on an urgent basis for non-molestation orders and occupation orders. We can carry out a swift legal aid eligibility assessment and have measures in place to ensure that those who are eligible receive public funding and receive representation in order to protect themselves from their abusers.

Some practical advice if you are reading this and are living with an abusive partner, until you are unable to contact us to seek help and support:

  1. Keep your mobile phone charged and with you at all times
  2. If your partner becomes physically violent try to avoid any rooms such as the kitchen or garage that might have potential weapons
  3. If you feel safe to do so, download the app ‘Bright Sky’, which can allow you to record domestic abuse through photos text audio or video, without any content being saved on your devices.

Many high-profile public figures including the Duchess of Cornwall have urged women who are staying at home with an abusive partner to seek advice and support from the National Domestic Abuse helpline. We would go a step further and advise you to seek advice and support from your local specialised practitioners who are best placed to offer practical and legal solutions to the situation that victims of abuse currently find themselves in.

If you are aware of a friend or relative who is living with an abuser, if it is safe to do so, gently encourage them and support them to seek legal advice to free themselves from the cycle of abuse.

A non-molestation order can prevent a perpetrator from going within a certain number of metres of the property that the victim may reside in. If the victim and perpetrator reside in a property either owned or tenanted jointly, occupation orders can be utilised to permanently remove an abusive partner from the home, allowing it to become the safe haven that it should be, especially during these times of crisis.

And always, remember if there is an immediate threat to you or someone you know, from an abusive or violent partner, dial 999.

Contact us, we are here to help

If you have any questions please contact Nicola Harris on the details provided below