As we start a New Year and a new lockdown, it is OK to feel differently and it is important to look after our physical and mental wellbeing. This week, Tam Wedgewood, a domestic abuse survivor and trainer at Space 4 Action, talks about domestic abuse during lockdown.
‘Are You OK?’ is an especially important question in domestic abuse – it changes and saves lives. The impact of lockdown on wellbeing is magnified when someone is also experiencing domestic abuse.
Abusers use isolation from friends, family and sources of support to control their victims; unfortunately, lockdown increases isolation and therefore, control.
Living with an abusive person is always living with restrictions and controls placed on you by the abuser, but there are usually opportunities in the day for some breathing space.
In lockdown, the family is with their abuser 24/7 - living on adrenaline, waiting for the next unpredictable outburst, fear is constant.
In normal times, families may get respite when the abuser is at work. For some survivors, going to work is their safe place. For children, school is welcome time away from the frightening situation at home.
There are children on this Island that are living in fear, watching/hearing one parent mistreat another, potentially getting caught in the middle of it trying to make it stop.
Children’s resilience varies; they experience abuse in different ways, but it will always have an emotional impact. There is also a strong link between domestic abuse and child abuse.
Domestic Abuse risks children’s emotional well-being, educational success, and chances of forming future healthy relationships.
Daily activities that we used to take for granted are life-line opportunities when a child or adult might tell someone what is happening at home.
School… appointments… seeing friends… lockdown takes away interactions that help make life bearable and provide opportunities to seek support.
Therefore, in lockdown we need to do more to provide new and different routes to help.
People experiencing abuse are leaving their homes less than usual, but via remote working and learning, employers, teachers, colleagues, are in homes more than usual.
Would you recognise the signs? Could you make regular ‘check-in’ calls with someone to ensure they are OK?
As UK Minister for Business Paul Scully wrote last week:
‘Colleagues and managers can often be the only other people outside the home that survivors talk to each day and are therefore uniquely placed to help spot signs of abuse – such as an individual becoming more withdrawn than usual, sudden drops in performance or mentioning controlling behaviours in their partner… employers can be a bridge between a worker and the support they need.'
Teachers have a similar opportunity – so do friends or family making video calls.
Is the person’s partner always in the room monitoring what they say? Does the person seem afraid? Are there bruises? Indications someone might be hiding bruises? (hoods, sunglasses, video always turned off?)
If it is safe to do so, ask ‘Are you OK?’ or trust your instincts and call the police.
Eleven years ago, my neighbour asked me, ‘is everything OK?’ - she changed my life and that of my children.
It is more difficult and dangerous than ever for someone experiencing abuse to call for help. But as neighbours, friends, colleagues, could we step up?
Services are still open.
Leaving home to escape violence or seek help is NOT breaking the Covid-19 regulations.
When children are at risk consent for sharing information is not needed.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse or you suspect someone is, then support is available. Don't be silent. For more tools and resources on mental wellbeing visit: areyouok.gov.im.
Some useful numbers are:
If you are worried about a child experiencing domestic abuse call Children & Family Services
Telephone: 686179 or if out of hours via Police Headquarters 631212
Adult Protection Team
Telephone: 685969 or if out of hours via Nobles Hospital switchboard 650000
Telephone: 677900 (leave a number on which it is safe for the Refuge to call you back).
Police Covid-19 Support Unit
Domestic Abuse Officer: 631495
999 in emergency.
Useful information for friends and employers: www.space4action.info under “Information and Support”.