Domestic Abuse During Covid 19

  • Family Law

Domestic Abuse During Covid 19

These are difficult times for all of us. Trying to navigate through this new way of life, home educating our children whilst working full time, managing the household, missing our loved ones, financial worries and dealing with all the trials that come with a lockdown, is certainly a challenge.

My thoughts turn to victims living at home with their abusers during this time. It is difficult to raise the alarm when face to face with your abuser and during a lockdown this can only be so much harder to do.

Help is out there. If you or anyone you know is in immediate danger, the first step is to call the police, as some forms of domestic violence are criminal offences. The police can take immediate action, if necessary, and will usually flag the telephone number or the home of the caller, if they suspect that domestic violence may be an issue.

Alternatively, if you or someone you know is not in immediate danger, but in fear of abuse and violence, you may wish to contact one of the domestic abuse helplines which have been listed below or apply to the family court for a protective order.

What is domestic violence and domestic abuse?

Domestic violence or abuse includes all kinds of physical, psychological, sexual, financial and emotional abuse between people who are, or were, in a relationship with each other or are family members over the age of 16.

There is no definition of domestic violence or abuse. Some types of violence are directly physical and some are not. Domestic violence or abuse may include:

  • Assault
  • Rape
  • Damaging property
  • Threats
  • Criticism
  • Harassment
  • Controlling behaviour, such as:
    • Isolating someone from sources of support;
    • Reducing their independence;
    • Trying to control their behaviour; or
    • Exploiting them
  • Coercive behaviour, such as trying to harm, punish or frighten someone by use of:
    • Violence;
    • Threats;
    • Humiliation; or
    • Intimidation

The Law during the Coronavirus pandemic

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England Regulations 2020) permits you to leave your home to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm.

The Family Court Service – Remote Access

The family courts are open on a remote access basis and they are prioritising the following areas of family work:

  • Emergency protection orders
  • Interim care orders
  • Secure accommodation orders
  • Deprivation of liberty authorisations
  • Urgent applications in private law children case
  • Child abduction orders (including Tipstaff orders)
  • Domestic abuse injunctions
  • Female genital mutilation and forced marriage protection orders
  • Urgent applications in financial remedy cases and decrees absolute

Emergency protection orders

The courts have wide powers to protect you from violence committed by, or threatened by, a person associated with you.

Non molestation order

A non-molestation order is used to stop someone from:

  • Using or threatening violence against you
  • Using or threatening violence to a child
  • Molesting you in any way

Molesting can include:

Behaviour that harms, troubles, vexes, annoys or inconveniences you or any relevant children.

Molestation can be direct or committed indirectly and includes behaviour, such as:

  • Physical harm
  • Verbal abuse or threats
  • Pestering another person
    • In writing or through social media
    • Through a third party
  • Intimidation
  • Persistent abusive text message, phone calls or messages on social media
  • Threats
  • Harassment

Molesting can also include pushing, punching, slapping, hair pulling, throwing objects and spitting.

A non-molestation order can also be used to keep a person away from a particular place such as the area around your home or your workplace.

For an application to be successful there must be evidence:

  • Of the behaviour complained of
  • That the applicant or a child are in need of protection
  • That an order is needed to control the behaviour of the respondent

An order only becomes effective when it has been served on the respondent.

Typically, a non-molestation order is made for six to twelve months but it is possible to apply for further orders.

Breaching a non-molestation order is a criminal offence punishable with up to five years imprisonment or as a contempt of court.

Occupation order

An occupation order determines who will live at the family home. An occupation order can be used to exclude someone completely from a property or can set out rules to enable a property to be shared.

Granting an order depends on the relationship of the parties and their rights to occupy the property in question.

For an application to be successful the "balance of harm" test must be applied. Essentially the judge will consider whether you or any child is likely to suffer significant harm due to the conduct of the other party if the occupation order is not made. The test includes the need to consider whether making an occupation order will cause greater harm to the other party and any child.

If the judge does not find sufficient reason under the balance of harm test, an application might still be brought. The court will consider all the circumstances of the case, including the:

  • Housing needs of the parties
  • Financial resources of the parties
  • Likely effect of any decision by the court not to exercise its powers on the health, safety or wellbeing of you and any child
  • Conduct of the parties to each other

Occupation orders are intended to determine temporary living arrangements to give the applicant and respondent time to organise where they will live and how they will divide their property.

An occupation order can be made for a period of up to six months, but it is possible to apply for further orders.

Practical measures to protect yourself

  • Ensure a fully charged mobile phone is at hand in case of emergencies
  • Take note of both the emergency and local police station telephone numbers (the local police can now be contacted by dialling 101) and the numbers of any relevant organisation, such as social services
  • Memorise telephone numbers for trusted friends and relatives
  • Agree a code word to use when calling others to identify that the police should be alerted
  • Ask trusted friends or relatives to check on you
  • Keep your car fuelled and ready to go with a spare key at hand
  • Have a bag of essential items at a place of safety containing cash, clothing, important documents and telephone numbers ready

 

If you would like to speak to someone in confidence about domestic abuse, please contact us on 0207 467 3980 or email our Head of Family, Priya Gill here.  

 

HELPLINES AND ONLINE SUPPORT

National helplines

National Domestic Abuse Helpline
Phone: 0808 2000 247

Women’s Aid Domestic Violence Helpline

Free 24-hour national helpline run by Women’s Aid and Refuge.

Phone: 0808 2000 247

Domestic Violence Assist

Specialises in assistance to obtain emergency injunctions from being further abused.

Phone: 0800 195 8699

Men’s Advice Line

Confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse.

Phone: 0808 801 0327

National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline 

Emotional and practical support for LGBT+ people.

Phone: 0800 999 5428

National Centre for Domestic Violence 

Specialises in assistance to get emergency injunctions from being further abused.

Phone: 0800 970 2070

National Stalking Helpline

Guidance on the law, how to report stalking, gathering evidence, staying safe and reducing the risk.

Phone: 0808 802 0300

Victim Support

Free and confidential help to victims of crime, witnesses, their family and friends.

Phone: 08 08 16 89 111

FLOWS

Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors, is a legal support service, designed to help protect women against domestic abuse.

Phone: 0203 745 7707

Galop (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people)

Emotional and practical support for LGBT+ people experiencing domestic abuse. 

Phone: 0800 999 5428