Domestic Abuse and Lockdown

Domestic Abuse and Lockdown

Jo Lane ~ Gestalt Counsellor

The past few months have brought about unprecedented changes to how societies function, impacting our behaviours and subsequently how we relate to others.
An issue which has become a focus internationally for governments and has received substantial coverage in the media, including the UK, is a rise in reported cases of domestic abuse during lockdown. Domestic abuse charities have reported a 25% increase in calls made to The National Domestic Abuse helpline since lockdown was implemented on the 23rd of March 2020.

Having spent 16 years as a frontline support worker for numerous domestic abuse charities and as a counsellor currently working in private practice at The Sunflower Centre, I am acutely aware of how the Covid-19 global pandemic, with the ensuing necessary government restrictions, may lead to a heightened risk to survivors living with a perpetrator. For many of us living in isolation, a lack of support from others or regular social contact is proving challenging, however, experiencing these struggles whilst living in an abusive dynamic may be not only challenging, but incredibly frightening, overwhelming and, in some cases, potentially life-threatening.

Tactics often employed by perpetrators in an attempt to enhance power and control over someone include isolating them from their friends and family, whilst restricting and monitoring their movements. The necessary safety guidelines which have been put in place by the government could, unintentionally, enable the perfect conditions for a perpetrator to increase control; leading to the potential escalation of abusive behaviour.

An area in which a perpetrator can continue coercive and controlling behaviour, even after separation, is through child contact arrangements. Due to certain restrictions implemented under the lockdown conditions - such as school closures and childcare facilities being unavailable - survivors may have had no option but to adjust child care needs, possibly requiring further support from the perpetrator regarding childcare. This could potentially leave the survivor in a vulnerable position, providing the perpetrator with an opportunity to withdraw, change or manipulate childcare arrangements and, ultimately, escalate abusive behaviours through asserting control.
Whilst risk and safety is paramount when considering individuals trapped in an abusive dynamic during the pandemic, it is of equal importance to consider survivors who have taken the brave decision to leave an abusive relationship and are living in the current lockdown conditions. Survivors who have experienced an abusive dynamic previously may have been isolated, cut-off from the support of their family and friends and closely monitored, leaving these individuals terrified, disempowered, anxious and with low self-worth. These precise conditions are, in many regards, being mirrored by the necessary government guidelines and may leave survivors feeling triggered right back to the restrictive, painful and traumatic experience of their past abusive dynamic.

If you feel these issues resonate with you, or know of someone who may be in a position similar to that described, I would like to express that you are not alone.  There are innumerable support services, helplines, legal services and therapeutic services still working during the pandemic that can help you navigate these challenging times.

Womens Aid  |  Womans Trust  |  Solace Women's Aid
Rights of Women  |  Galop  |  Mankind  |  Refuge