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One of the most negative consequences of the lockdowns in different countries has been a rise in domestic abuse and violence. Early signs are that this pattern is being repeated in Wales and other parts of the UK. Here Dr Sarah Wallace* shares some guidance for practitioners to recognise and respond to domestic abuse and violence.
Domestic abuse is a serious health and social care issue. Anyone can experience domestic abuse regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, economic status or background.
Government regulations about self-isolation and social distancing to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 have meant that, across the world, there are reports of a rise in domestic violence and abuse. However, it is important to stress that Covid-19 does not cause abuse, nor is it a justification for abuse. Domestic abuse is a choice by the perpetrator with the intent of exerting power and control.
To ensure individuals are safely supported, we have identified some resources for professionals.
The first two resources provide guidance for professionals to recognise and safely respond to domestic violence and abuse.
- A ‘quick guide for social workers’ produced by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The guidance includes advice about asking someone about domestic violence and abuse, responding to a disclosure, and specialist services.
- SafeLives, a UK wide domestic abuse charity, have developed the second resource ‘Getting it right first time’. Aimed at professionals who do not work in domestic abuse services, it includes three steps ‘identify, ask, and act’ to help if you suspect someone you are working with or supporting is experiencing domestic abuse:
The resources below have been developed specifically in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The UK Government has published advice and guidance for those experiencing or who feel at risk of experiencing domestic abuse during the outbreak. This guide provides an overview of domestic abuse and contact details of specialist organisations.
- Roasalise O’Neale and Leonie Burnham of eSafety Women, Australian Government have published a blog about online safety help. This resource is primarily targeted towards domestic and family violence workers. However, it provides key advice about communicating safely online with families/parents who you suspect might be at risk of/or are experiencing domestic abuse.
- Welsh Women’s Aid has developed a COVID 19 Bystander Toolkit. The toolkit provides information about how to act safely and how to support (which is particularly helpful). It is also available as a PDF Bystander Guidance: Supporting survivors in your local community during COVID 19. The toolkit also includes guidance for volunteers, and a manager’s briefing to supporting staff who are experiencing domestic abuse. These can be accessed via the website, or directly as a PDFs Guidance for volunteers on domestic abuse and sexual violence during social distancing and isolation and Supporting staff experiencing domestic abuse during social distancing and isolation.
If you or someone you know is suffering physical or emotional abuse at the hands of a partner, here are some ways to get help:
- The Live Fear Free helpline is available 24 hours a day – call free on 0808 8010 800 any time, if you can do it safely. You can also text 0786 007 7333, email firstname.lastname@example.org or webchat Live Fear Free.
- If you can’t talk in safety, but you need help immediately, police forces across Wales will respond to a silent 999 call – dial 999 followed by 55 to indicate that you can’t talk, but need help.
*Dr Sarah Wallace is Senior Research Fellow at the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care at the University of South Wales. She has experience of undertaking research with domestic abuse organisations and has previously worked in the third sector providing support for women and men experiencing domestic violence and abuse.