Coronavirus And Domestic Abuse

Emotional Abuse Under The 2018 Domestic Abuse Act- Part 6

During the pandemic, 18% of Scottish people requested history of abuse for their partners past, a notable increase on the previous year. Between March 23rd and April 27th, Police Scotland noted a 40% increase on the previous year, including applications under both the Right to Ask (which individuals request), and the Power to Tell (Police can safeguard a person).

Since the Covid-19 lockdown, there has been a rise of people requesting information, under the Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse in Scotland. This scheme is run by Police Scotland, and allows you to enquire about your partner’s past, if you think you are under risk of abuse.

Emotional abuse is not forgotten during the pandemic. In a recent BBC interview, assistant Chief Constable Duncan Sloan said: “We recognise that the threat has not gone away, in

fact it has increased. Clearly some people’s homes are not a safe place for them (…) Our officers are not just looking for physical violence, they are looking for the tell-tale signs of any controlling or coercive behaviour”. Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, welcomed the efforts of Police and authorities in these times.

A Guardian article indicated how dangerous and distressing quarantine is for people living with their abusers, emotionally and/or physically. Children left at home will also be more likely to witness abuse, since they can´t attend school. This time right now is particularly dangerous because most of you will be afraid to leave during a pandemic. Activists are creating emotional safety plans to ensure victims can leave.

“We are living through an unprecedented crisis right now”, declared ScottishWomensAid on their website. Police Scotland and the COFPS reassured charities as to their robust response to this particular crisis.

Initially, there weren´t as many calls to Women´s Aid and Rape Crisis at the beginning of the pandemic. According to Katy Mathieson, coordinator at Scottish Women’s Rights Centre, this was probably because of safety and privacy issues. In more recent weeks,

calls have returned to normal levels, as this charity instituted additional advice appointments and a new online contact form. This ensures protection to women, who can contact the charity without any trace, and reach help when it is most convenient for them. All information can be found on their blogs and their new legal guidelines.

What help can you get?

“Abuse isn’t caused by being home together. It is about the opportunities. The difference is that they can control more when they are home more”, highlighted Marsha Scott.

Lockdown might increase chances of abuse, for already abusive people. To be stuck at home gives the abuser more opportunities to micro-control every aspect of your life: what you eat, when you sleep, who you contact, which makes it scarier, especially if

confinement lasts longer. This is what most concerns Chief Executive Scott: there is no relief opportunities for you or your children, since there is no way to escape and talk to family or friends.

Police Scotland allow abuse victims to leave their homes and seek refuge. Scottish Labour MSP Pauline McNeill stated the importance of keeping domestic abuse services open during the pandemic.

A Zero-tolerance policy has been applied, meaning that no-one should feel discouraged from contacting support services due to the pandemic, since they are essential services. To make this clear, the Scottish Government announced it would provide

ScottishWomensAid with £1.35m over six months, to help all those at-risk during lockdown.

During the COVID 19, COPFS continues to receive and deal with reports from Police Scotland, as confirmed publicly by the Lord Advocate. All domestic abuse cases will continue to be prosecuted vigorously and fairly.

Charities have their lines open. Information is still passed on social media during the pandemic, and each of them address Coronavirus and recognize its impact. All of the main organisations posted an update from the start of the lockdown, to assert that they would still be there, available for you.

SDAFMH recognize that if you are or think you are abused, you might feel anxious and feel that it is more difficult to cope, without friends or family around. Scottish Women´s Rights Centre have a blog with legal advice and information on support available during pandemic such as “Exclusion orders: what are they and how can they help if I’m experiencing abuse at home?”, “COVID-19: Support available for women experiencing abuse”, “What will happen with my court case during the COVID-19 pandemic?”. As for

Victim Support Scotland, they explained that in this vulnerable position, the justice system also has to adapt. Some trials are cancelled, and courts are shut, which may create

confusion amongst victims and witnesses, who don´t know what is going to happen to their case. Nevertheless, support is available.

Most charities are physically closed but offer alternative support. For example, Shakti Women´s Aid doesn’t offer in-person support but has Whatsapp, Facetime and phone lines available for women and children. It is the same for Hemat Gryffe Women´s Aid, which closed to follow the Government guidelines, and offers phone support from 9am to 5pm.

National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline offers support services to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans + victims/survivors by telephone, email, text and WhatsApp. Finally, AMIS welcomes calls and emails (which might be easier if you live with your abuser) from victims and their peers.

UK Home Secretary Pritti Patel has allowed domestic abuse victims to leave their house and seek refuge during the pandemic. She also launched a new public awareness raising campaign to reassure victims, under the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone. If anyone is at risk of, or experiencing domestic abuse, help is still available. This campaign seems effective, according to statistics. For example, the National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help since the lockdown, according to the

BBC.

The Home Secretary added there would be an additional £2 million sent to domestic abuse services, as part of her campaign. The Domestic Abuse Commissioner is to provide money

that will “immediately” bolster helplines, declared Patel. Martin Hewitt, National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman, in an April 2020 BBC article, said that 400 domestic abuse suspects were arrested in two weeks in the West Midlands”. This initiative is enhanced through this campaign.

But this is not enough. Yes, there is awareness in the UK of abuse and the danger of a pandemic for victims. Yes, there are initiatives and money given to charities. But this problem is not only in Scotland or in the UK. It is everywhere.

António Guterres, secretary of the United Nations tweeted “I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic”. The New York Times transcribed this matter in May. The UN called for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence, but only restricted it to women.

Abuse can happen to anyone, no matter what religion, sex, or race. Abuse can happen to children, not only adults. Abuse comes in many forms.

Abuse should be combatted, not only now in a pandemic, but constantly. Until there is no more abuse.

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