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Coronavirus: Islington’s Violence Against Women and Girls group fears self-isolation and social distancing will lead to ‘significant rise in domestic abuse’

PUBLISHED: 20:13 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:36 24 March 2020

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/ PA

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/ PA

PA Wire/PA Images

The co-chair of Islington’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) group fears there will be a “significant rise in domestic abuse” while people are self-isolating.

The government has asked individuals suffering from symptoms of coronavirus (Covid-19) to stay home for seven days, while entire household must stay at home for at least 14 days if one of a resident may have the virus.

Tanya Pinnock, says these measures, coupled with the government’s plea for everyone to practice “social distancing” and stay at home where possible, will play into the hands of abusers.

Tanya is a frontline practitioner working with young people and families – and she’s also a survivor of domestic abuse.

“I’m seriously concerned,” she told the Gazette. “There is obviously going to be a significant rise in domestic abuse as a result of victims and children having to self-isolate.

“It brings a new set of challenges because if we look at coercive control the key tactic for a perpetrator is isolating victims. So if the government, for obvious reasons, is encouraging families to self-isolate, actually we are giving power to the isolator to continue to abuse this woman, and men as well. [...]

“In terms of the government response, obviously I understand there is in protecting the elderly and people vulnerable to coronavirus, but I think there has to be a public health response in terms of the victims of sexual abuse and gender-based violence.”

She says many frontline services for those impacted by VAWG are having to temporarily close due to the risk of the spreading the virus, adding: “They are looking to offer services remotely but obviously that’s very challenging.”

Many agencies still offer services online and telephone services, but this brings extra risks if the perpetrator of the abuse is still living in the household.

Tanya is also concerned that emergency services are under so much pressure it will impact response times for incidents of domestic abuse.

She added: “It also puts a lot of pressure on frontline practitioners because they are not able to provide the services to safeguard families.”

But she added: “It’s about, despite the challenges, what can we do to empower victims if abuse in the circumstances? And for me a big thing is about self-care, having an emergency line, not necessarily leaving the house but having contact with a friend or neighbour, ensuring you have access to an emergency phone, for example. Have those key phone numbers.

“What can you do to take care of yourself? For me when I was going through it stuff like mindfulness, meditation was really helpful.”

A joined statement signed by Women’s Aid and eight other national organisations offering services to victims of VAWG said “Covid-19 will have serious impacts on the lives of women and children”, citing reports of increased domestic abuse in China during the pandemic.

Islington Council recently announced an additional £3million worth of funding to tackle VAWG in the borough over the next three years, with £600,00 earmarked for this year.

There were 4,000 reported cases of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) in Islington last year - with 29 killings London-wide - and it’s one of the biggest causes of homelessness and mental health issues in the borough.

Domestic violence and abuse is a factor in eight out of 10 social care cases and children exposed to it are more likely to be excluded and grow up to be abusive partners themselves.

In 2017/18, Islington Council research showed the 25 most serious young offenders assigned to its youth offending service all had experiences of DVA.

The council’s cash injection will help police provide replacement smart phones for survivors of domestic and or sexual abuse, making it easy for the women to hand over mobiles for evidence to increase the likelihood of convictions.

It’s also hiring specialists to work with perpetarators to try and change their behaviour.

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If you are experiencing Domestic Abuse, you are not alone. Please contact:

REFUGE - The freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247

Information can also be found online at www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk

Women’s Aid run a webchat service: chat.womensaid.org.uk/

The webchat service is available Monday to Friday 10:00am - 12:00pm.

Solace Advice helpline - 0808 802 5565

Monday - Friday 10am - 4pm. Additional 6pm - 8pm on Tuesdays. Email: advice@solacewomensaid.org

Solace Rape Crisis helpline - 0808 801 0305

Monday & Friday 10am - 2pm, Tuesday 10am - 1pm, 6pm - 8pm, Wednesday & Thursday 1pm - 5pm. Email: rapecrisis@solacewomensaid.org. Alternatively contact The London Survivors Gateway at 0808 801 0860 or https://survivorsgateway.london/

24hr National Domestic Violence Helpline - 0808 2000 247

RespectUK helpline for male victims of Domestic Abuse

Website: //mensadviceline.org.uk/

Phone: 0808 8010327

Open Monday and Wednesday 9am to 8pm

Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am to 5pm

Emai: info@mensadviceline.org.uk

If you are in immediate danger call 999


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