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Safety advice for those experiencing domestic abuse

by Gemma Melling

Residents will be following the tighter restrictions now in place around social distancing and staying home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This advice is in place to limit the spread of the virus and to keep as many people as safe and well as possible.

For victims of domestic abuse however, home may not always be a safe place. That is why it is really important that these vulnerable members of our community know that physical isolation doesn’t have to mean there is no help for them, if they need it.

Cllr Shelley Powell, Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Neighbourhoods said:
“It’s a stressful time for us all but for some people, being asked to stay at home more often than normal presents even more challenges and anxiety. It is really important that we reach out to these people to make sure they have the information and advice they need to get help – if they need it. The message is clear – you are not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence.”

If you, your child or anyone in the family are at immediate risk of harm, you should contact the police urgently, call 999.

If you not at immediate risk but are concerned, please see the advice below.

Mobile phone
If possible, try and keep a mobile phone with you at all times. The police are a key service when in immediate danger. Do not be afraid to call 999 in an emergency.

Silent Solutions
Familiarise yourself with The Silent Solution system. This is a system for victims of domestic abuse who might be afraid of further danger and escalation of harm if they are overheard when calling 999 in an emergency.
When somebody calls 999, an operator will ask which emergency service is required. If the caller is unable to audibly signal to the operator, the call will be forwarded to an operating system.
If 55 is pressed by the caller, the system will detect this. The operator will then transfer the call to the relevant police force as an emergency. (Please note, you must not dial 999 then press 55 immediately – the operator must be able to hear that there is somebody on the line prior to the pressing of the keys – if you can tap the headset or cough to make your presence known).

Thinking of Leaving?
At the moment leaving might feel particularly difficult and you might be worried about having to leave your home in an emergency. If possible pack an emergency bag for you and your children and keep it somewhere safe. Try to include essential things such as medication, identification, money or cards. Essential clothing for you and your children.

Due to self-isolation staying with family and friends might not be an option, but Knowsley Housing Options can be contacted to advise you on your options:

www.knowsleyhousingoptions.org
Tel: 0800 694 0280
info@knowsleyhousingoptions.org.uk
Open weekdays 9am to 5pm. Outside of these hours, if you have a homeless emergency use the same number 0800 694 0280 and you will be able to speak to an officer, alternatively you can leave a message and an officer will make contact the next working day.

Furthermore, a Domestic Violence Protection Order can remove a perpetrator from the residence and from making contact with the survivor for up to 28 days. An Occupation Order is an injunction which removes an abusers’ rights to reside in the family home. Find out more information from Rights of Women.

Support for Knowsley residents

If you are a Knowsley resident and are experiencing domestic abuse or believe someone you know is please contact:

Knowsley Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub
Tel: 0151 443 2600

Or

Knowsley Early Help Hub
Freephone helpline on 0800 073 0043 and ask for your information to be passed onto the Early Help Hub and one of our staff will call you back. Or you could complete the online form by clicking the ask for help and support on this link.

Or

The First Step (Specialist Domestic Abuse Service)
Tel: 0151 548 3333
Website: www.thefirststep.org.uk

Women’s Aid is continuing to provide the following services:

The Survivors’ Forum is an online resource for survivors of domestic abuse. The Survivors’ forum can be accessed 24/7. This is a place where survivors can support each other and share their experiences.

Women’s Aid Live Chat is currently available Monday to Friday 10- 12pm. This could be a safer way to access some support; particularly if an abuser might also be in the property so it would be unsafe to make a telephone call.

Women’s Aid Email Service is still operating and can also provide support. For detailed information about national and local support services visit their website.  You’ll also find details of local helplines on the site.

Women’s Aid would always want to encourage a survivor to be as safe as possible when accessing any form of support. It will be really important to familiarise yourself with information and guidance that will help to keep you as safe as possible when using online platforms. 

Looking after children can be particularly difficult challenging when isolating. Family lives have support available including online forums.

Further useful support organisations include:

Worst Kept Secret Helpline: 0800 028 3398.

Refuge (includes information for men) 0808 200 0247 (24 hours)

The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327.

National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline 0800 999 5428.
Samaritans (24/7 service) 116 123.

Child Contact
Child Contact arrangements are of particular concern to many survivors at the moment. Perpetrators have always used child contact arrangements as a tool of coercive and controlling behaviour, and are likely to use COVID-19 as a way to threaten to not adhere to – or flout – contact arrangements. We are also hearing from survivors that the guidance given around ‘isolation’ can feel very unclear. Survivors are concerned that they will be accused of breaching a court order by not allowing contact for example. We recognise that accessing legal advice might be difficult at the moment.

If a survivor has concerns around the family court, it will be useful to take a look at the CAFCASS website for guidance, which is being regularly updated.

Be mindful of sharing details such as your address, phone number or email address with your abuser that could compromise your safety. If your abuser turns up at your property without agreement do not allow them in as this could escalate the risk to you and your children. Call 999 if you are feeling threatened.

Welfare benefits

If you are concerned about your financial situation, you could contact Turn2us. They help people to access the money available to them through welfare benefits and grants. Their website has an income-related benefits checker enabling you to check that you are receiving all of the benefits you are entitled to.

Financial Abuse

Many victim/survivors experience economic abuse within the context of intimate partner violence. Surviving Economic Abuse can provide information and resources.

Immigration 

Your abuser might be using your immigration status against you. If you need some guidance you could contact Immigration Advice service. They can offer expert legal advice on all aspects of immigration, asylum and nationality issues.

The NHS have confirmed that no charges will be made in the diagnosis or treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19). This applies to everyone living in the UK, regardless of your immigration status. No immigration checks are required for testing or treatment for COVID-19, so please access healthcare if you need to.

Southall Black Sisters offer specialist support, advocacy and information to Asian and Afro-Caribbean women suffering abuse. Opoka provide a national helpline for Polish women living in the UK.

Speakers of other languages

If English is not your first language, you can find information on Coronavirus (COVID 19 ) advice for patients in 21 different languages, Albanian, Dari, Pashto, Portuguese, Bengali, Vietnamese, and Kurdish Sorani is available at the moment, but more languages coming soon, Mandarin, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Malayalam, Turkish, Farsi, Amharic, Tigrinya and Somali.

Disability

Deaf Hope provides practical and emotional support to deaf women experiencing domestic abuse.

Emergency SMS provides a text message service for deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired people in the UK to send SMS messages to the UK 999 service where it will be passed to the police.

Are you worried about a friend, family member or neighbour?

You might be particularly concerned about a family member or a friend at the moment if they will be at home with their abuser. Always encourage them to call 999 in an emergency.

Encourage them to seek online support such as Women’s Aid’s Survivors’ Forum, Live Chat or Email.

Do not approach the perpetrator about their behaviour, this could escalate the abuse and put them in further danger. It is also important that you do not put yourself in a dangerous situation.