As the next national lockdown starts again, after we just started slowly settling into the new
‘normal’, many will be dreading the prospect of not going out to the pub or not being able
to see those they love. But unfortunately for some people they will be terrified of yet again
being imprisoned with their abuser. Lockdown will save many lives, but this article will
examine one of the terrible consequences.
One of the most important impacts is that on the freedom to leave or seek help. A lot of
women before lockdown might have been preparing to leave even making plans. But then
with the national lockdown restrictions put in place hastily in March these plans were
crushed. In the April survivor survey over three quarters of women said that Covid-19 made
it harder for them to escape abuse. As more people stayed at home, survivors found they
didn’t have a lot of privacy to make calls to those who could help or even leave the house to
see a friend. For those who wanted to leave there was many issues with private rental
accommodation or securing social housing. Even during the easing of restrictions, there was
still a lack of clarity from the government on what was allowed and what wasn’t. We need
to make sure that women’s safety is taken seriously in the coming weeks.
Abusers used lockdown as a way to isolate their victims further and as a tool for further
manipulation and controlling behaviour. In the June survivor survey, 66.7% of women said
that Covid-19 had been used as part of the abuse they suffered in one or more ways. Some
of this included increasing monitoring and surveillance of online activity as well as not
allowing them to go outside. Due to survivors being more isolated and away from their
normal support network, abusers exerted even more control as they knew the survivors had
no one to turn to. This was even worse for those who were shielding and were reliant on
their abusers to get food, medication and any other essentials. This meant that their lives
were in their hands. For those who didn’t comply with their abusers demands they would be
left without the essentials they needed for everyday life.
Unfortunately for some survivors, who have escaped and managed to slowly start
recovering after periods of abuse, the pandemic has triggered memories of abuse and
affected their mental health. For some survivors, wearing face coverings can trigger abuse
memories and re-awake the fear and the panic. You’re not required to wear a mask if it
causes you severe distress. However, as this exemption is not as visible as some, some
survivors might still get harassed for not wearing one and won’t feel comfortable explaining
their reasons. Furthermore, 12.5% of those who answered the April survivor survey said
that their abuser had gotten back in touch with them during the pandemic. This also
triggered past memories of abuse and made them feel even more isolated and vulnerable
enough that the abuse could start again in the future.
While we go through the lockdown and then hopefully soon easing out of it there must be
more provisions for women to escape abuse and seek help. We can’t allow them to be the
sacrifice of the pandemic.
The data from this article is from the report completed by Women’s Aid after the first