We are all living in uncertain times at the moment, not really knowing what to expect from one day to the next. But for some in our communities, living with uncertainty is a daily occurrence.
For victims of domestic abuse, home is not a safe haven – it’s a place of fear. For them, entering into an extended period of isolation at home will not only be difficult, but also terrifying.
Being in close proximity with your abuser, under stressful circumstances can increase the risk of violence and abuse posed to victims. Very sadly, as reported in the national press, as cities around the world entered into lock down scenarios to prevent the spread of the COVID19 virus, these locations have seen reports of domestic abuse increase and we anticipate the same nationally.
In a bid to reach out to victims and let them know they are not alone, North Yorkshire Police have launched a resource page on their website, which provides details of telephone and online support services which are available around the clock.
Under recently updated guidelines from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), avoiding injury or escaping a risk of harm is a valid reason to leave your home.
Detective Superintendent Allan Harder, lead for Safeguarding said:
We are all currently experiencing a situation of uncertainty and worry at the moment, which has left many of us feeling like we have very little control over our lives. However, it gives us a small insight into how a victim of domestic abuse feels every minute of every hour of every day.
I want anyone affected by domestic abuse to be certain of one thing – if, during this period of isolation and distancing, you should need to call North Yorkshire Police because you are at immediate risk of harm – dial 999 and we will be there to help you.
If you are in an emergency situation and have to dial 999, but you are too scared or cannot speak, you can use the ‘Silent Solution’ system by pressing 55 when prompted by the BT call handler. Please listen to the direction given by the call handler, as they will need to assess the call to determine whether it is a genuine 999 call being made. You may be asked to cough or tap the handset to indicate you are there and then press 55 when prompted. Your call will then be transferred to police.
If you want to report your concerns to us, but it is not an emergency situation – please contact us via 101.
We are here to respond to your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but we realise that not everyone wants to speak to the police. That’s why we have pulled together a list of online and telephone services, offered by our partner agencies and national charities to support domestic abuse victims who are isolating at home, so they can continue to access help and advice during these unprecedented times.
The most important thing is to reach out and make contact with someone, get some advice and to not suffer in silence.
North Yorkshire Police
The police are here to help you 24 hours a day 7 days a week. If you are under threat and it is an emergency dial 999.
If you are unable to speak you can use the Silent Solution system by pressing 55. You will need to list to the call handlers questions and may be instructed to tap or cough, so they can determine that it is not a hoax call and help is genuinely required. Press 55 when prompted by the call handler and they will connect you to the police.
If it is not an emergency, and you want to make a report to police dial 101.
IDAS – Independent Domestic Abuse Services
IDAS is the largest specialist charity in Yorkshire supporting people affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence.
They are continuing to their North Yorkshire Helpline, which offers advice and support to anyone experiencing abuse and violence – 03000 110 110
They have also pledge to provide other forms of support such as online video support, WhatsApp messaging, support via phone and email and have extended their live online chat via their website.
From Wednesday 1 April, their Live Chat service will run from 3-6pm Monday – Friday. Additionally, the team will run a chat dedicated to answering questions from professionals, agencies and workers from 10am – 12 noon on weekdays.
Visit www.idas.org.uk for more information.
Refuge is an organisation that supports women and children who experience domestic abuse.
They run the National Domestic Abuse Helpline which is open 24/7 and is free and confidential – 0808 2000 247 and provide a range of information and support via the www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk website.
The website contains a helpful online guide for survivors with advice on how to stay safe. They also offer automated guidance via chatbot on how to secure your electronic devices from hacking or tracking by your abuser. Visit www.refuge.org.uk for more information.
Women’s aid is an agency which works to provide lifesaving services and building a future where domestic violence is not tolerated.
You can visit their website www.womensaid.org.uk and connect with a support worker via their instant messaging service or send an email through to a support worker.
They also run a survivors forum which can be accessed 24/7 – where survivors can offer support to each other and share their experiences.
Between 10am-12pm Monday to Friday they also offer a live chat facility, which may be a safer way to access support if an abuser is present in the property.
Visit their website www.womensaid.org.uk for more information.
Supporting Victims in North Yorkshire
Supporting Victims can provide support for anyone affected by crime, whether reported or not, including victims, bereaved relatives, parents or guardians of victims under 18 and members of staff where a business has been a victim of crime.
They can also provide a range of practical and emotional support, but if necessary can also help you access support provided by other organisations.
Their phone lines are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm and they can be contacted on 01609 643100. You can also visit their website www.supportingvictims.org
Men’s Advice Line
Domestic Abuse of course affects men too and the Men’s Advice Line is available to offer confidential support, practical advice and information to any man who may require it.
They support men in heterosexual and same-sex relationships and are also available for friends and family members to contact for advice and support.
You can contact them on 0808 801 0327 (Mon and Wed 9am to 8pm and 9am to 5pm Tues, Thurs and Fri) or email them firstname.lastname@example.org
They also operate a webchat on Wed, Thurs and Fri from 10-11am and 3-4pm
Visit their website www.mensadviceline.org.uk for more information.
Galop is the UK’s only specialist LGBT+ anti-violence charity.
They offer advice, support and advocacy to people who have experienced domestic abuse or sexual violence.
They offer support and advice to anyone from the LGBT+ community via the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428. The helpline is available Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm (8pm on Wed and Thurs). From 1-5pm on Tuesday they offer trans-specific support and advice on the helpline number.
Safety steps you can take
We know that being isolated at home under stressful circumstances can increase the risk of violence and abuse for victims of domestic abuse.
You can take some safety steps now so you are prepared for a situation, if it should arise at home.
- If it is an emergency and are at risk of harm – call the police on 999. If you are unable or too afraid to speak, you can use the Silent Solution system by pressing 55 when prompted by the call handler. Read more about this system and how to use it here.
- Think about safe spaces at home where you can take refuge. Try to avoid anywhere such as the kitchen or garage where there may be items which could be used against you. Is there a room where you can quickly and easily exit from, or a garden space you can take refuge in?
- Keep a mobile phone charged and at hand, so you can summon help quickly.
- Agree a time with a friend or neighbour that you will contact them each day, so you can keep in touch with someone and let them know you are ok.
- Agree a code word that you can text or use in a call with a friend or neighbour to raise an alarm so they can call the police for you.
- Speak to your children about where they can go to keep safe. Explain that they need to get to safety first and then raise the alarm. Getting involved in the situation may put them at risk of harm.
- Form an escape plan from the house and consider deciding a trigger word with your children that you can use to indicate to them when it’s time to leave the house. If you do need to leave the house and you are approached by the police, explain to them why you had to leave so they can help and safeguard you.
- If you can, keep bank cards or some cash and house or car keys in a safe and accessible place, in case you need to grab them in a rush.
- If you cannot leave – try to get to a room with a lock and call the police immediately.
While it may be difficult to access face-to-face help during this period of isolation and social distancing, help and support is still available online and on the phone. Click here to access a full list of support available from our local partners and national charities and agencies.