When home isn’t a safe place
Imposed social distancing like most aspects of life has pros and cons; it’s a time for reflection for a sizeable portion of the population. Work may be a stressor for you so being away from it may be helping you unwind if you have been furloughed. We have to stay at home.
But what if your stressor and trigger is your relationship with your partner, and you are now living in close proximity like never before? This is not a time for reflection as such, but one of heightened anxiety, fear and a daily concern for safety. Stay home, stay safe, we are told- how? When Home isn’t your safe place?
Recent estimations suggest 1.6 million people experienced domestic violence last year in England and Wales.
Relationships will go through periods of flourishing and also periods of unrest, discomfort and hostility at the best of times however, in the lockdown situation we find ourselves in, domestic violence reports are sadly increasing. Places that may have been retreats and provided respite in the past such as work, friends’ homes, family homes and charities with open doors just aren’t accessible in the same way as they were before. Charities such as Relate and WomanKind are concerned about vulnerable partners being exposed for prolonged periods to emotional and physical abuse. Let’s not ignore the fact that ANYONE regardless of gender, status and other demographics can be experiencing abuse, not just women: 1 in 6 men suffer abuse too, that we know of.
Shelters are open and the Government urges you to seek out your local shelter if you need refuge.
I’m offering support in the way of charities below and guidance. It is a large topic and one that I will cover in future blogs in more detail; right now, it seems more appropriate to advertise the help out there. All aspects of abuse deserve extensive coverage however help is also needed right now for those already suffering.
In the UK, the domestic violence helpline is: 0808 2000 247
Bridges is the domestic abuse service within Tameside run by Jigsaw. They are still actively supporting the local community:
Call on: 0800 328 0967 / 0161 331 2552 https://support.jigsawhomes.org.uk/information-article/bridges-domestic-abuse/
Crossroads Derbyshire: 01457 856675 (Mon to Thurs 9am – 5pm, Fri 9am – 4.30pm)
Derbyshire Domestic Abuse 24 Hour Helpline: 0800 0198 668
In an emergency call 999 if you or dependants are in fear of your life.
There are steps that you can take to prepare your exit to ensure your own safety if you are living with your abuser:
- When you feel threatened and anticipate being attacked or hurt in some way do your best to get to a room that has open windows and doors; avoid rooms with doors that lock if you can do so.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers on you at all times or in easy reach, these can be helplines, local shelters, a neighbour, friends and family and your GP.
- If you can do safely, discuss your options with an expert via a charity helpline in advance to plan an exit should the need arise.
- If you have children, pack emergency supplies ready to take when you decide to leave.
- Keep taxi money/ train or bus fare ready in a safe place that only you know about.
- Plan your route to your safe place.
- You may not have the luxury of time when you do need to flee, that is OK, even some of these already being in place will help you feel more in control of the situation if you have been able to prepare.
- Remember you have done the best that you can in the situation you find yourself in- the reality of leaving may not match what you expected to happen but it is the start of you regaining control and living a safer life.
Crossroads provide extremely helpful advice on their website; for more information please visit: http://www.crossroadsderbyshire.org/about-abuse/keeping-safe/
We’ve spoken above about an exit plan; it may not yet be time for you to make that decision and that is OK, it’s personal, individual and it will come at the time when you need to make it happen. Prior to that, what can you do right now to stay safe:
- Utilise technology to have regular catch-ups with supportive friends and family.
- Use code words in your conversations, discuss with them what these could be so that they can understand if today has been particularly horrific for you. Code words also do not give away what you are discussing and help keep your privacy.
- If you feel like a burden or that you believe you do not have supportive friends and family then access a charity via email or telephone. Many charities now provide instant messaging or email support so that you do not need to speak on the phone if that is problematic for you.
- Clear your browsing history off your phone and devices if you have a particularly controlling partner, or do not wish them to know you are seeking help.
- If they find you on your phone talking, you can explain it is for support through the virus crisis. Currently, this is an extremely plausible statement and true.
- Remember that what is happening to you is a criminal offence and not something that you deserve in any way shape or form. If you find yourself defending their actions against you- check the evidence, what have you actually done to set their behaviours in motion? Are they responsible for their own actions?
- Try to look for patterns, can you identify when violent or abusive episodes are likely to begin? Can you take your daily exercise before it rises out of control? Can you go to another room safely?
- If you find you feel frequently unsafe and scared, then start to think about your exit plan, do not pressure yourself to act upon it but start to piece things together. It is not as simple as outsiders may believe; it takes practical and emotional planning, it takes self-belief and a desire to lead your life without fear. Breaking through all of this and building it up cannot happen in one day. Be kind to yourself and go at your own pace in line with your own safety. You matter and your survival matters.