Domestic abuse services on the Island have reported a surge in calls since social distancing guidelines came into force. YouFirst, the Island’s domestic violence and abuse support provider, has reported a 20 per cent rise in calls during the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis via their contact number, 0800 234 6266.
The news comes as the government launches a new public awareness campaign highlighting that if anyone is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, they are still able to leave and seek refuge. The campaign, under the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone, aims to reassure domestic abuse sufferers that support is available during the Covid-19 crisis. People have been asked to show solidarity for abuse victims by sharing a photograph of a heart on their palm, and asking others to do the same.
The campaign is publicising support available including the freephone, 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline number – 0808 2000 247 – run by Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity.
Teresa Brimble-Brennan, the council’s domestic abuse project officer, said: “Abuse is a choice a perpetrator makes, and isolation is already used by many perpetrators as a tool of control. While 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 to avoid or escape injury or harm.
“Refuges remain open, and the police and services will provide support to all individuals who are being abused. While all public services are adapting to new ways of working during this pandemic, our message to anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse is clear: You are not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence – we will still be here for you, no matter what.”
Domestic abuse isn’t always physical – it’s a pattern of controlling, threatening and coercive behaviour, which can also be emotional, economic, psychological or sexual.
Teresa said according to WightDash, a women’s severe and multiple disadvantage charity on the Isle of Wight, some perpetrators were using the Covid-19 crisis as a means of regaining access to the family home. She said: “What they are seeing is that in situations where technically the relationship is over, perpetrators are using child contact as a means of seizing the child. The child goes for contact in accordance with a court order, or other informal arrangement, and then the father declares that someone in the home has symptoms and will not return the child. Ex-partners (perpetrators) offer practical assistance, acting as ‘rescuers’, as a means of regaining access to the family/family home. All of this puts tremendous pressure on families who are already fearful and distressed. There is strong evidence that difficult times such as these cause past fears, anxieties and traumas to re-emerge and this has devastating effects on normal function.”
If you’re a child or young person and domestic abuse is happening in your home or relationship, then call Childline on 0800 11 11 or go on their website. If you or someone else is in immediate danger or at serious risk of harm, you are advised to call the police on 999.
For more information on the Island’s domestic abuse support services visit www.iwight.com/domesticabuse