Whilst this unparalleled time has enabled families and friends to re-connect, many victims of domestic abuse face an uphill challenge like no other, trapped in a ‘home’ that they wish to escape from. The United Nations estimate that six months of lockdown for coronavirus could lead to 31 million more cases of domestic violence globally. Many people continue to view domestic abuse as simply physical violence to a partner, however, the case of Yemshaw v London Borough of Hounslow in 2011 provided the essential clarity that was fundamental for this area. The Supreme Court held that domestic abuse extended to any form of abuse, directly or indirectly, that may give rise to the risk of harm.
Whilst no current legal definition of domestic abuse exists in England and Wales, the Home Office in 2013 adopted the following definition:
“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.”
The “Stay at Home” message has provoked greater opportunities for domestic abuse to occur. The most recent figures reflect this assertion, as Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, have reported a 49% increase in calls to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline and a 400% spike in visits to its website since lockdown begun. Further, in six weeks up to the 19th April, the Metropolitan Police made 4,093 arrests for domestic abuse offences and report that domestic abuse calls have risen by a third. Currently, no comprehensive government strategy exists. In the past, there have been proposals to introduce a Domestic Abuse Bill, but, so far no legislative amendments have been made. However, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has reassured the public by promising aid and support to anyone that is at risk of domestic abuse.
There is help available. Refuge operate 24-hours a day and are there to provide you with the support and help needed and to make your voice heard. Other services include: Men’s Advice Line, Women’s Aid and Victim Support. The Home Office campaign, promoted under the Twitter hashtag #YouAreNotAlone encourages the public to highlight their solidarity for all those experiencing domestic abuse.
At Audley Chaucer, our team of lawyers have significant experience in divorce and separation cases. If you are suffering from domestic abuse and would like advice, please contact us.