Isolation at home has reportedly led to an epidemic of domestic abuse, yet the Government’s response fails to protect those survivors most vulnerable in society.
Abuse in isolation
Throughout the UK, a surge in the reported cases of domestic abuse has taken place during the past few months of isolation. Many have found themselves trapped at home with abusive and violent partners, unable to leave the situation. This has meant that the abusers have often been current partners and family members. The number of women killed by their abusers has actually doubled during lockdown. In London, the number of calls to police about domestic abuse increased by 11.4% in comparison to last year. There has also been an increased demand for support services for survivors: in early April, the National Domestic Abuse helpline experienced a 25% increase in demand only a couple weeks into lockdown.
Clearly, we are facing more than one nationwide emergency. Living in the middle of a pandemic is terrifying for everyone, but those trapped in violent homes are enduring the additional fear of abuse – with no escape.
The Domestic Abuse Bill
Domestic abuse is a massive issue: as many as 1.6 million women in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse only last year. While these numbers are chilling enough for the Government to have recognised the problem, its response leaves much to hope for. The Domestic Abuse Bill, in drafting since 2019, passed the House of Commons on the 6th of July and is currently undergoing scrutiny at the House of Lords. The Bill has its merits, of course – for example, it introduces a statutory definition of domestic abuse, and seeks to protect and support victims better through amending the processes in courts as well as improving the performance of support services.
However, many have voiced their discontent over the treatment of migrant victims in the Bill. Support available for victims of domestic abuse is scarce as it is, but those with no recourse to public funds suffer from a lack of support to an extreme extent. They cannot receive any help from the government, often driving further dependency on their abuser: for instance, one with no recourse to public funds is not eligible for housing support, which at worst can result in the victim having no choice but being stuck at home with their abuser. Furthermore, the UK’s immigration policy makes matters worse for survivors of domestic abuse from migrant backgrounds. Basic services such as reporting abuse as a criminal offence become extremely difficult as one risks being detained and deported just by contacting the police.
Nationality should not determine who is deserving of help and support, especially when stuck at home during a pandemic. It is saddening that the Government’s empathy only fully extends to those with a British passport – even if a survivor with no recourse to public funds was abused by a British citizen on British soil.
The support available
We at JAN Trust are all too familiar with the barriers survivors of domestic abuse face in accessing support. Migrant women are already amongst the most vulnerable in society, and legislation like the Domestic Abuse Bill only makes matters worse for them. At the moment, the majority of the support available for migrant women experiencing domestic abuse is provided by non-governmental organisations. To keep operating, these organisations must be granted appropriate funding, as small BAME charities are hit the hardest by the pandemic. You can help us continue the vital work we do supporting the survivors of domestic abuse by donating to us.
JAN Trust is a safe space for all survivors of domestic abuse. We provide guidance and support for those suffering from abusive domestic conditions, and can direct you to other specialist services. There are many different forms of domestic abuse, ranging from physical to emotional and financial – visit Refuge’s website to find out more. If you think you might be experiencing abuse, please call the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline at 0808 2000 247.