Domestic Abuse during Coronavirus

Domestic abuse may affect anyone at any time, but the isolation resulting from COVID-19 is particularly affecting victims/survivors of domestic abuse.

The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help since the lockdown, according to the charity Refuge. Victims/survivors of domestic abuse may be self-isolating with someone who is harming them, and they may feel they have no way out.

Previous places of safety or respite, such as friends, family or local churches, may no longer appear accessible.

Raising awareness of Domestic Abuse has been key matter for the Diocese, particularly through its support of the White Ribbon campaign.

In light of this, and the current situation, Bishop Simon has shared the following message, endorsing recent Church of England material signposting to support:

 

Hate in a time of Coronavirus

"It’s said Covid-19 is a great leveller, but it isn’t really.

Sure, anyone could contract the virus, but some are routinely near it in a way others aren’t.  And the effects of coronavirus are not shared equally. In practice, these exaggerate existing inequalities.

The lockdown was an essential response to a national crisis, but in restricting people to their homes, it guaranteed vastly different outcomes. Damp or overcrowded homes, poor and under-resourced ones, harm occupants psychologically.  Homes without love and kindness are a slow-release poison. And then there are the unsafe: homes where violence terrorises victims into submission.

We knew it was coming, but the 25% surge in calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline shortly after the lockdown and the 150% increase in visits to nationaladhelpline.org.uk evidenced the unheard desperation of the abused, for whom there is no safe space.

Physical violence is the eruption of a volcano, but the culture of simmering tension is like the unceasing release of hot ash, clogging the air, scorching the skin, slowing and restricting movement.  Isolation has become a virtue in corona-world, but it has long been used as a tool of control by those who abuse in the home.  This co-incidence of virtue and vice makes the abused uniquely vulnerable today.

The virus has left many people wanting to contribute to the community but in many cases has rendered them unable to do so. What can we do with the knowledge that people are being attacked in their own homes?

There is practical guidance at: www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding/promoting-safer-church/domestic-abuse-and-covid-19

Some of us may be led by God to intercede specifically for the subjects of domestic violence and might stay with this question until – even beyond – the end of lockdown. We are rightly focussed on some heroic efforts to defeat this virus.  No such praise or affirmation exists for those who endure abuse – only the imposition of pain and a sense of worthlessness.  Yet the endurance shown by some is utterly heroic.

The use of this term is something we would avoid in normal times, because it comes close to praising passivity – even tacitly condoning cruelty - when we want to encourage agency in victims.  But these are not normal times. There is nowhere to go, possibly not even space to call for help. And in the midst, many victims are trying to protect their dependent children. Prayers for mercy and protection, and that victims might know how greatly God loves and cherishes them personally, are of incalculable value." 

The charity Refuge has dedicated part of its website to the impact of coronavirus: www.refuge.org.uk/covid19-survivor-tips/

Perpetrators have choices; they are not prisoners of their own impulses and there are cognitive approaches that can help them to resist the worst they might do.

The White Ribbon campaign welcomes agency among all men in addressing the prevalence of abuse against women. And they also have tips for men who are succumbing to their worst instincts: www.whiteribbon.org.uk/news/2020/3/31/corona-crisis-survival-kit-for-men-under-pressure

In tackling our own role in this global crisis, it is worth imagining looking back from a position when the virus has been contained and asking ourselves: did I do my part to make this world a safer place?

We all want to be able to answer that question well.  And it’s not all about the virus, either.

Bishop Simon Burton-Jones




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