Staying safe during COVID-19
A guide for victims and survivors of domestic abuse
Lockdown is difficult for everyone. But for those living with an abusive partner or family member, it is dangerous, traumatic and relentless.
Lockdown and household isolation instructions by the Government do not apply to anyone experiencing domestic abuse. Do not suffer in silence. You are not alone.
You are a survivor, equipped with the knowledge, strength and tools that help keep you and your family safe every day.
If you need help now
If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police. Silent calls will work if you are not safe to speak – use the Silent Solution system and call 999 and then press 55 when prompted .
You can also ‘Ask for ANI’ (pronounced ‘Annie’) in pharmacies displaying the ‘Ask for ANI’ logo. They will offer you a safe space, provide a phone and ask if you need support from the police or other domestic abuse support services.
Help and advice
Below are some other things you can think about if this is happening to you. You can also download a pdf of our Staying safe during covid-19 advice. And, we have worked with other specialist domestic abuse organisations to produce joint guidance for survivors and for friends and family. The Government has also produced easy to read and translated versions of advice about domestic abuse.
Remember that you are an expert in your own situation and only take on advice that feels safe and relevant to you. It is important to try and think about the things that may change or make you more unsafe, especially thinking through now how you might get help if you need it. We also know that, like everyone, you could be worried about contracting the virus and the NHS website can give you advice around this.
Always remember that the abuse you are experiencing is not your fault . It is not what you deserve and you are not alone.
Self-isolation means different things in different countries but usually it means only leaving the house for essential reasons. Unfortunately, this means you and the person harming you could end up spending more time together in the same space.
We talk about Idva/Idaa in this guide but instead you may have a social worker or other professional that you trust. Think about who this trusted person is for you. You might also want to think about:
Support from family, friends and neighbours
Family, friends and neighbours can be another way to get the support you need.
- Can you FaceTime or call someone you trust? Can you talk to them about what you are experiencing and what your concerns are? Do you have a code word/phrase to let someone know that it is not safe to talk or to ask someone to phone the police?
- Could you set up with someone you trust a check in call so you know that someone will contact you at certain times of the week?
How can you look after yourself?
- As much as possible stick to usual routines. Maintaining basic self-care like eating, showering, sleeping and exercising can all help your mental health.
- Take whatever breaks you can, walk around any outside space you might have, read a magazine, get the kids involved in an online exercise class.
Do you have a personalised safety plan?
If so, think about what needs updating or changing because of what is happening now. Can an Idva/Idaa or specialist domestic abuse worker help you do this? If you can’t see them or speak to them are there other professionals you trust and can talk to?
Remember, it is ok to tell your specialist worker that the person harming you is living in the property, they will not judge you and can better help you think about your safety.
Speak to your employer
Do you have a supportive employer? Can you talk to them about what is happening?
Download phone apps
Think about when abuse happens
For example, is it worse when the kids are around or not? This might help you think about times when things might be calmer.
You should also consider:
- What are your main concerns and worries?
- These are the things you need to share with your specialist domestic abuse worker, trusted professional and if you need to ring 999 for help, the police.
- Will the person who is harming you be out of work or working from home?
- Will your family income be affected? How could this affect things?
- Does the person harming you use drugs and/or alcohol?
- How could their use change and what could this mean?
- Do you know how they might respond to self-isolation?
- Think about whether this might increase the sexual violence/ coercive control/ physical abuse
- Do you think there is software on your IT? Any listening devices? Cameras in the home?
- How will this change the way you might get help?
- Do you know what your options are if you want to leave? Or what your options are if you want to stay but want the person harming you to leave? The Idva/Idaa or specialist domestic abuse worker can help you think this through.
Other steps you can take
- Have you talked to your Idva/Idaa through the layout of your house so you can think about any places of safety?
- If you had to leave in an emergency do you know where you would go? Remember many shops/restaurants/pubs will be shut.
- If someone you trust is doing is your shopping for you could you write a message on the shopping list asking for help?
- Have a bag packed ready and if you can, leave this at a trusted friend/family/neighbour’s home:
- This should contain medical essentials, important documents including passports/driving license. Maybe the service you are in touch with could keep copies of these documents?
- Have a code word/sign to signal you are in danger – set this up for family and friends to let them know by text/FaceTime/skype. The code will need to alert them to contact the police if you are in danger.
- Teach the code to children who are old enough to understand what you are asking of them and why.
- Have a little bit of money hidden away in case you need this to leave.
- Do you need a separate mobile which you can use just to call for help? The service you are in touch with may be able to supply this.
- If there are times you know you can talk, share this with your specialist worker and agree how you will reach each other.
- Use the fact that there are no online shopping slots available to go to the shop and speak to someone.
- Now would be a good time to consider whether there is someone else you could move in with e.g. a vulnerable family member who will need your support. Consider that you will be self-isolating for long periods.
- Silent calls to police – dial 999 – then 55 when prompted if you can’t talk – see here.
Parents and children
Domestic abuse impacts the whole family, particularly when schools are closed and children are at home.
West Sussex Connect service have kindly provided this Parent Pack, full of useful ideas for activities for helping children to talk about their worries.
Child contact and living arrangements
The person harming you may use child contact to further control and abuse you. If you have court orders in place which are not being followed please contact your solicitor or the police to enforce them.
If you have children living between two family homes this counts as ‘essential travel’ according to the Government.
You may also find the following resources useful:
- Rights of women guidance on Covid-19 and child contact
- Guidance about child contact orders during the crisis
- Scottish Courts guidance on child contact orders
- The Scottish Government’s guidance on childcare provision for key workers
Support for children and young people
There are also free resources for children on the Monkey Bob website.
Helplines for people experiencing abuse
If you are in immediate danger call 999 and ask for the police.
If you are not in immediate danger, the following numbers might be helpful:
England: Freephone 24h National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247
Scotland: Scotland’s 24h Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline: 0800 027 1234
Wales: 24h Life Fear Free Helpline: 0808 80 10 800
Northern Ireland: 24h Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline: 0808 802 1414
LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428 firstname.lastname@example.org
Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327 email@example.com
Karma Nirvana, UK Helpline for ‘honour’-based abuse and forced marriage: 0800 5999 247
Victim Support National 24 hour Supportline: 0808 1689 111
Websites and useful guides
Accessing information online may feel like the best option for you at this time. If you do access any information online you may need to delete your browser history or use ‘private browsing’ as a way to hide your searches.
- SafeLives guide to staying safe online
- Women’s Aid guide to private browsing
- Guide to technology safety
- Making a safety plan, Women’s Aid
- The Survivor’s Handbook, Women’s Aid
- Guidance on economic abuse during COVID-19, Surviving Economic Abuse
- Karma Nirvana
Live chats and survivor forums
Samaritans can also be a source of support to you if you are generally feeling low and would like to talk to someone. They are a non-judgemental listening service that will not give advice or pressure you in any way.