Domestic Abuse during Covid-19 Lockdown – how can we help?
With many in the United Kingdom entering into their third week of lockdown, it’s safe to say many of us are missing our freedom and interaction with others. Some have even light-heartedly joked about the difficulties of spending so much time with spouses or partners at home! However, for many the lockdown situation has been unbearable, with domestic tensions increasing significantly, resulting in a spike in domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse comes in many forms, whether it be physical, sexual, psychological or financial. In April 2019 new domestic abuse legislation came into force in Scotland. For the first time, the law recognised domestic abuse as a crime, rather than simply recognising physical violence as a crime. This means that now, a person engaging in a pattern of abusive behaviour towards a spouse/partner or ex-partner, can be prosecuted and punished by law. The key aspect of the legislation was to cover a range of behaviour, including psychological and emotional abuse, now commonly known as coercive control. Such psychological abuse often involves disempowering and isolating victims, removing them from the support of family and friends. The Covid-19 lockdown has therefore had the unintended outcome of assisting perpetrators in their abusive behaviour.
Around the world many governments and third sector organisations are doing what they can to support victims of domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic. With the Scottish government announcing additional funding for Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland in March, to ensure that access to these key support services is maintained. Scottish Women’s Aid will receive 1.35 million over a six-month period and rape crisis Scotland will receive £226,309 over six months.
The French, Spanish and Italian governments have pledged to move victims of domestic abuse in to hotels whilst their countries remain on Covid-19 lockdown, if refuge spaces are not available. Victims of domestic abuse in France have also been given the ability to discreetly alert pharmacists to domestic violence, by asking for a “Mask 19”, a codeword indicating they need the Pharmacist to call the police. Earlier this month U.K news presenter Victoria Derbyshire displayed the domestic abuse hotline (0808 2000 247) number written on the back of her hand throughout her news segment, subtly displaying it for those who might otherwise be prevented from seeing it.
No matter what country you are in, it is clear that the Covid-19 lockdown has taken away the little respite and control over their lives victims of domestic abuse used to have. For example, the freedom to leave home to collect children from school and interact with other parents at the school gates or the ability to leave home for work. Combined with the financial impact upon families of redundancy or furloughing and the pressure on victims attempting to home-school and prevent children from antagonising a perpetrator, the risks to many is grave.
What can the team at Macleod & MacCallum do to help you, if you are a victim of domestic abuse?
Morag, Fiona and Jenna have many years of experience in helping victims of domestic abuse obtain protective orders from the civil courts within the Sheriffdom Grampian, Highland and Islands. At this time, courts throughout the Sheriffdom have closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, Inverness Justice Centre remains open and is one of 10 a hub courts in Scotland. The Inverness Justice Centre is dealing with emergency work only, but it has been made clear that protective orders fall within this emergency category.
Our family law team is here to help you obtain the necessary protective orders, such as non-harassment orders, exclusion orders or domestic abuse interdicts with the power of arrest. On a practical basis, we can also put you in touch with the right people at Inverness Women’s Aid, Ross shire Women’s Aid, Moray Women’s Aid, Orkney Women’s Aid, Caithness Women’s Aid or AMIS (Abused Men In Scotland) should you want their additional support. As former directors of Ross-Shire Women’s Aid, both Jenna and Morag have a great deal of knowledge about the support and services such agencies can provide.
Macleod & MacCallum also offers legal aid in respect of protective orders, for those who are financially eligible.
For advice from one of our three family law Specialists, you can contact us on (01463) 239393, by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by sending us as direct message on Facebook or Twitter.
For more on protective orders see our previous briefing here.