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30 Oct 2020

Family & Matrimonial

Don’t suffer in silence during Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. With the number of domestic abuse cases around the world reported to be at an all-time high, our head of Care, Siobhan Downes, examines the devastating impact that abuse within the home can have, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, and urges anyone who is suffering to get in touch for advice and support.

“Domestic violence affects millions of people across the world – women and men, of every race, religion, culture and status. It doesn’t always show itself through signs of physical abuse – through black eyes or broken limbs. Emotional abuse can take many forms, from shouting, humiliation, stalking, manipulation, coercion, threats and isolation, to non-stop texting, constant use of the silent treatment or calling someone stupid so often that they start to believe it.

“The purpose of this annual, worldwide awareness campaign is to remind us all that domestic abuse can affect anyone but no-one should have to put up with it. We all need to be able to spot the signs and help those people who are experiencing abuse, in whatever form.

“The increased intensity of domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic has been well-documented, with enquiries to national hotlines rising sharply since lockdown began in March. It is thought that globally, cases have escalated by 20% and in the UK, more than a third of specialist services have reported an increase in requests for their support. Yet, according to SafeLives, the UK-wide domestic abuse charity, nearly two-thirds of victims have not felt able to seek help.

“Coercive control is a particular concern at the moment as the additional restrictions put in place to control the virus mean there are more opportunities for offenders who live with their victims to have a high level of control over their lives.

“Coercive control is an act or pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation or intimidation or other abuse that is intended to harm, punish or frighten the victim. Examples include the abuser taking their partner’s phone from them, not allowing them to leave the house, demanding to know where they are going at all times, controlling what they wear, monitoring their devices and social media accounts or restricting contact with friends or family members.

“All of this gradually ends up taking away the person’s sense of independence and empowerment, and without the support and access to friends and family, it is all too easy for the victim to gradually withdraw from the world around them.

“Clearly, it is also harder for the people who are suffering at the hands of their abuser to call out for help in these difficult times. As well as the practicalities of not having the freedom or privacy to ask for help, many victims are worried about what would happen to their children, how they would survive financially and where they would live, if they summoned up the strength and found a way to leave.

“Many people are understandably feeling trapped right now but if you are experiencing domestic abuse in any form that is making you feel unsafe in your own home, we can help put a stop to it and ensure you and your children are safe and protected.

“Domestic abuse is a criminal act that ruins lives. At Harding Evans, we frequently deal with victims of domestic abuse who worry about seeking independent legal advice as they think it will incur significant costs. The costs are not as high as you might expect and what many people don’t realise is that Legal Aid funding is often available to help with any court application and legal fees.

“With our experience, support and insistence of total confidentiality, we will do all we can to help you be free from abuse. We can act quickly to get court orders in place, making it illegal for your abuser to be near you, your family or your property. We can put you in touch with various organisations who are experienced in helping people who have been through the same ordeal. We can also request that you receive police protection from your abuser and can support you in bringing criminal charges against them if you wish.”

Get in touch today on 01633 244233 for understanding and confidential advice.

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