Is the pandemic really causing a rise in domestic abuse?
We have seen headlines across the media about the effect that the pandemic has had on victims of domestic abuse. At the end of May, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline reported a 66% rise
in the number of calls received compared to previous years. Our partner charity Restored reported that the number of visitors to its website doubled over the previous year from the period of mid-March to mid-August. Even more disturbing, we heard from Dame Vera Baird QC, the victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, that the number of women killed by a partner or ex-partner was five times higher than the current average. Here Restored help shine a light on the facts behind the figures.
What is the reason for this rise in cases?
At the centre of abuse is the use of power to exercise control. In order to achieve this control, many tactics and behaviours are used. There is one in particular that has been exacerbated during lockdown - isolation.
Isolation is a common tactic that an abusive partner uses to erode the support system of a victim/survivor, including family and friends to gain more power and control over her. This can be achieved by drastic measures, including physically moving her and the family to a distant area where she has no links. But it can also be less obvious. Creating a home where she feels unable to invite family and friends over because of his unappealing behaviour or because of the state of the house. He may even claim that her female friends or family members fancy him and made advances towards him, so they best stay away.
Lockdown itself presents an opportunity to further this isolation not only because of the physical impossibility of getting out of the house but also the fact that all the family is in very close quarters in the home may deter any intention of resisting the abuse or fighting against it. Mandy Marshall, the Anglican Communion’s Gender Justice Director, says that:
“Government-enforced confinement in the home can result in women’s negotiation and appeasement measures being restricted, reduced or rendered useless”
As a church community we are in a prime position to combat isolation. We have opportunity and means. We have already established a relationship and have valid reasons to contact each other and meet, if not in person then through different alternative channels like social media, virtual meeting or the good old fashion phone call.
But we also hold fundamental truths that will dismantle some of the worst messages the
abuser will drill into the victims/survivors head “no one cares”; “you are not worth it”.
As Christians we are all part of the body of Christ, if one part of the body hurts the whole body hurts. We are intentionally connected and we are called to care for each other. Scripture also tells us that every woman and man are made in God’s image, with equal value and worth and were purposely created to live life at its fullest.
So again we have both opportunity and means to counteract the efforts that abusers make to enhance the isolation that is being intensified by the measures taken to control this pandemic. The question is, ‘would we do it’?
Restored is a Christian organization working to end domestic abuse by speaking out for victims and survivors and creating a network of churches that never tolerate abuse. If you want to find out more about them, what they do and access their resources and training please visit www.restored-uk.org