New lockdown will be more difficult for 'worn down' victims of domestic abuse, warns charity

The new period of lockdown will be more difficult for women and children in situations of domestic abuse who have been “worn down” by the increased pressures of lockdown since March, Scottish Women’s Aid has warned.

Picture: Laura Dodsworth\Scottish Women's Aid
Picture: Laura Dodsworth\Scottish Women's Aid

Chief Executive Marsha Scott stressed that the new restrictions do not apply to those experiencing abuse, who are free to travel or seek support.

“In the first lockdown we heard stories from all over the country that perpetrators of abuse were using lockdown to exert even more control over women and children, telling them they couldn’t leave, or if they didn’t live together then through child contact arrangements,” she said.

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“So it’s really, really important that everyone understands that if you’re a child or a woman living with domestic abuse, lockdown doesn’t keep you in that abusive situation.

“You are free to leave, to seek support, to get help in whatever way makes sense and is safe for you.”

Ms Scott added that while the new lockdown will be “harder” for many, there are some positives compared to March, as charities like Scottish Women’s Aid already have the infrastructure in place to support people remotely, and many women and children have developed their own coping mechanisms.

“What we need to do to get through this lockdown is much clearer to us I think that the last time, when we were completely in the dark,” she said.

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“We’ve been through this, we’ve now got the hardware and the experience to provide services in a very different way, and we don’t have to make it up in the middle of a raging pandemic.

“So in some ways that’s a comfort.”

It has been reported that lockdown increase risk of abuse, with support services such as Women’s Aid seeing a rise in demand for services.

“In the time since the first lockdown, one of the things that became really clear to us is that even when children and women are not living with their abuser, in the context of lockdown it is really, really, difficult for them to get some private safe space to enjoy support,” Ms Scott said.

"Whether that’s a support call with the children's worker or the women's worker, or whether it’s a call to a helpline. If you’re locked down with an abuser your opportunities for making a phone call and not being overheard are very limited.”

Scottish Women's aid has set up a number of new services aimed at lockdown support, including an expanded web chat and a dedicated web chat for children and young people, both aimed at providing support without a constantly present abuser overhearing.

Ms Scott said some people’s circumstances have not changed since the first lockdown, as most activities outside the home have remained suspended.

“They’re worn down, everybody’s worn down by this, and that absolutely has to come into the thinking about just how exhausting resisting domestic abuse is,” she said.

"And then when you pile on top of that childcare concerns, the fact that your abuser is present all the time if you’re living with them… it means many women are trying to work, trying to teach, trying to provide care for their children and to protect them - I think we can't even imagine how difficult that is.”

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