Domestic Violence, Control relationship breakdown & Covid-19 Virus

When the government and its medical experts issued recommendations regarding self-isolation – just as in other countries – we suddenly found ourselves only able to go out for reasons outlined by the government.

This article is not about the recommendations that we should both follow and respect to stay safe. It is important to remember that the guidelines are in place to protect us all, including our loved ones, and to assist the overburdened NHS. We must be grateful to those that are gifted with medical and scientific minds: doctors nurses, and other valuable key workers.

During these unprecedented times, we are finding out a lot more about our relationships with others.

The police have stated that the incidence of domestic violence increases whenever there is a financial issue, and this can often be due to alcohol consumption or the loss of a job, for example.

Unfortunately, for those already in a relationship where domestic violence is an issue, self-isolation and lockdown are going to be the perfect scenario for perpetrators to continue their abuse. Remember, perpetrators do not come with a sign around their neck displaying the fact that they are perpetrators; furthermore, they can be men or women.  

Staying home, Self-isolation and Lockdown

I believe that the pressures couples are currently facing will be the cause of more new incidences of domestic violence: triggers that were not there before are there now. For example, the pressure of having no money and not being able to go out. Whilst we have not been completely stopped from going out, we should all be mindful of the necessity for this measure and, also, the unseen pressure it will be putting on couples and individuals and families.   

The reality is that most populations are not used to hearing the words, “no, you cannot to do this”, or, “your cannot go out, you must wear a mask, and you must practise social distancing”: pressure builds up where there was once no pressure.

Whereas we once had space, suddenly, there is none and – whilst it is for our own good – it feels very alien to us all.

The advantages (of course) are that we can stay warm, we have TV, the Internet and, hopefully, there is enough food to go round.

Tension builds up when we are living on top of each other, and tempers can become short. Whilst there is never an excuse for such behaviour, there will undoubtedly be an up-surge in violence and ill-feeling between partners (particularly in situations where there are no parents to calm those tempers). Things we were not aware of about our partner before will be more apparent now: where will this leave the relationship? There is a danger that we will become paranoid of our partner when they are using their mobile phone, or perhaps we will become addicted to our laptops. This may not lead to violence but it could lead to relationship breakdown.

Staying at home for long periods of time is not “the norm” for us. Staying off school can be considered normal (for instance, if a child is unwell or on holiday), but even this is not normal for extended periods of time.

Where there may once have been no triggers for domestic violence, we are now seeing multiple triggers. For example, people are being made redundant and losing their jobs; bills and debts are mounting; people cannot go to work because of childcare issues; children do not understand why they cannot go to the burger-bar to meet up with their friends etc. However, it is extremely important to remember that there is no excuse for domestic violence towards the person we share our lives with. Similarly, the control of another person we live with is never acceptable.

Where domestic violence occurs, a person should always call 999: there is no social shame in asking the police to attend the property. The situation is clearly not going to get better for the foreseeable future, and so, if the perpetrator can go elsewhere, that is fine – just remember that, for now, the situation, the pressure, and peoples’ tempers are not going to go away.  

You must try to gather as much evidence of the abuse as you can. If time is on your side, make a diary. Use your mobile phone for emergencies and take pictures; be mindful that the perpetrator may try and take your phone off you to stop you contacting the outside world.

If you can, try to prepare an escape plan. If you have children, this will not be easy because the age restrictions – and the virus itself – are going to make it harder for you to go to your parents’ home. Whilst you may feel awkward telling other people about your situation, it is better to have an escape plan than be stuck in a dangerous and fearful situation that you know could explode at any time.

If you are able, make a call. It may be easier to make an excuse, remove yourself and/or the children, go to a safe place (if possible), and then go to the police. For example, you could say you are going for exercise in the park.

Of course, none of this is either simple or easy to do, but you need to get the message across to people that you may only have seconds to get away.

If the perpetrator has taken your mobile phone, try to either slip out of house to speak to a neighbour, and use their phone, or get a taxi.

  • Go to a friend’s or relative’s house, and then go to the police.
  • Go to a solicitor’s practice (if one is open).
  • Remember everyone is currently affected by the virus: your usual plans may be difficult to implement.
  • Speak to family or friends – see if you can stay with them while you obtain legal advice.
  • See if the perpetrator has another place to stay and tell the police to ask him to leave.
  • Once the perpetrator is out, then plans can be made for your protection and long- term aims.
  • Furthermore, discuss your matter with your solicitor.

This current situation is going to test the strongest of relationships – remember, the virus does not discriminate. 

It may not be violence that causes the relationship to end, it may be the virus which shows the flaws in the relationship.

It may be the person becomes more controlling.

Family Law is here to assist, and so is Legal Aid. However, in an emergency – and when other places are closed – the police will help and assist you they must be your first port of call.   Take Care and Stay safe.